Allergy Immunology and Cell Biology Unit

Allergy Immunology and Cell Biology Unit (AICBU) at the Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine establishes rapid, low cost SARS-CoV-2 nanopore sequencing for the first time in Sri Lanka

The genomic sequencing facility of the Allergy Immunology and Cell Biology Unit (AICBU) at the Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine in the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, has now added nanopore sequencing technology to their sequencing facility. This unit has been instrumental in carrying out SARS-CoV-2 sequencing in the country so far, since the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak in Sri Lanka in March 2020. The addition of the nanopore sequencing technology will enable AICBU to ramp up the capacity of sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 genomes significantly, at this crucial point of the outbreak in Sri Lanka.

Nanopore sequencing is a unique new generation sequencing technology developed by Oxford Nanopore Technologies Ltd. in the UK to carry out real-time analysis of DNA and RNA. Compared to other sequencing technologies available, nanopore sequencing provides rich data, is fast, accessible, and easy to use, and enables analysis of ultra-long DNA or RNA reads in real time. Importantly, the cost of analysing a sample is significantly cheaper. Nanopore sequencing technology is being extensively used in more than 80 countries around the world in wide range of applications and it is currently playing a significant role in genomic surveillance of the COVID-19 outbreak in many countries.

Dr. Lakmal Jayasinghe, who is a graduate of the University of Colombo, PhD from the University of Oxford in the UK who is currently the Vice President of Research and Development of Nanopores at Oxford Nanopore Technologies was instrumental in this donation. The Faculty of Medical Sciences is extremely grateful to Oxford Nanopore Technologies Ltd and Dr. Jayasinghe for helping Sri Lanka at this crucial time as well as Hela Sarana, a UK based Charity Organization for their kind donation of an additional piece of equipment required to commence the sequencing project.