Life Technologies spearheads influenza initiative

Global partnership to streamline the monitoring of flu strains and speed vaccine development

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CARLSBAD, Calif.—Life Technologies Corp. has announced thecreation of the Global Influenza Network, a new global partnership that unitesscientists from several leading government public health organizations,veterinary institutes and research institutes in seeking to accelerate thespeed and efficiency of influenza monitoring and the development of vaccines. Themembers will share tools, experience and data through Life Technologies' IonPersonal Genome Machine semiconductor sequencing platform.
The scientists taking part hail from the Swedish Institutefor Communicable Disease Control, the Istituto Superiore di Sanita in Rome, theU.S. National Veterinary Service Laboratories and the J. Craig VenterInstitute.
"Life Technologies exhibited leadership in infectiousdisease tracking when our scientists worked alongside federal officials toidentify the cause of H1N1 outbreak in 2008," Gregory T. Lucier, chairmanand CEO of Life Technologies, said in a press release. "We are very proudto now bring together a group of such distinguished organizations to tackle thecontinued threat of influenza worldwide."
The belief of the Global Influenza Network is that bysequencing patient samples collected before the flu season begins, it will bepossible to identify emerging strains sooner and focus attention and resourceson the geographical areas in which such strains are most prevalent. Earlieridentification of and preparation for different strains of influenza could stoptheir spread or at least minimize the size of their effects. A benefit of theuse of semiconductor sequencing, such as in this initiative, is that the speedoffered over conventional methods allows for sequencing data to be collected inless time before vaccine production. Additionally, staying better informed oftrending or emerging influenza strains can aid in tailoring vaccine productionto the most prevalent strains.
Each year, samples from individuals infected with influenzaare collected and shared in order to increase knowledge about the flu subtypesprevalent in different regions. The World Health Organization (WHO) then usesthe collected data to determine which strains should be used in designing avaccine for that year's epidemic. In the past, however, the cost of sequencinghas meant that only about 20 percent of the patient samples collected are used. 
"Using next generation sequencing technology makeswhole influenza genome sequencing much easier, and much less expensive thanolder sequencing techniques, when used appropriately," said Steve Glavas,head of the NGS Platform at the Swedish Institute for Communicable DiseaseControl, in a statement.
This collaboration will serve as a pilot program todetermine the efficacy of influenza virus typing via semiconductor sequencingon Life Technologies' Ion PGM sequencer, which was chosen for its accuracy,sensitivity and economical benefits, as it costs less than $100 per isolate andenables scientists to multiplex at least 10 samples in one run. The networkpartners have agreed to share data and experiences, and the results of thestudy will be submitted to a peer-reviewed research journal.
Each year, flu epidemics lead to roughly 3 million to 5million cases of serious illness and anywhere from 250,000 to 500,000 deaths,according to WHO.
SOURCE: Life Technologies press release

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