Episode Summary

As the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak spreads in Asia, Harry speaks with Phil Febbo, the chief medical officer of Illumina, one of the world’s largest makers of equipment for high-throughput DNA sequencing. Febbo highlights sequencing’s emerging contribution to the understanding and treatment of infectious disease.

Episode Notes

Rapid sequencing of viral genomes is giving physicians and epidemiologists new ways to identify, track, and potentially slow outbreaks of viral infections such as the novel Wuhan coronavirus. That means high-throughput genome sequencing—which had predominantly been a research tool—is taking its place as a front-line weapon in the fight to prevent pandemics, says Febbo, a medical oncologist. “Last year, 40 percent of our consumables in sequencing were for clinical testing, and we see the clinical testing increasing at a pace that’s faster than research testing,” he says.

Whole-genome viral sequencing, as a supplement to more traditional PCR-based testing for RNA sequences, can not only reveal exactly which virus is afflicting a given patient but can reveal where a virus originated and how it is evolving to evade vaccines or other interventions.

“The fact that the WHO heard of the first cases [of the Wuhan coronavirus] at the end of December, and the New England Journal published the full genome on January 24, within a month, because of the availability of sequencing, already, places like the CDC are using that information to design the probes for the RT-PCR to develop front line tests—never before has anything like that happened,” Febbo notes.

Please rate and review MoneyBall Medicine™ on Apple Podcasts! Here’s how to do that from an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch:

• Launch the “Podcasts” app on your device. If you can’t find this app, swipe all the way to the left on your home screen until you’re on the Search page. Tap the search field at the top and type in “Podcasts.” Apple’s Podcasts app should show up in the search results.

• Tap the Podcasts app icon, and after it opens, tap the Search field at the top, or the little magnifying glass icon in the lower right corner.

• Type MoneyBall Medicine into the search field and press the Search button.

• In the search results, click on the MoneyBall Medicine logo.

• On the next page, scroll down until you see the Ratings & Reviews section. Below that, you’ll see five purple stars.

• Tap the stars to rate the show.

• Scroll down a little farther. You’ll see a purple link saying “Write a Review.”

• On the next screen, you’ll see the stars again. You can tap them to leave a rating if you haven’t already.

• In the Title field, type a summary for your review.

• In the Review field, type your review.

• When you’re finished, click Send.

• That’s it, you’re done. Thanks!