Noblis and Government Scientists Identify New Genomic Signatures of Ebola Using Whole Genomic Sequencing and Innovative BioVelocity Analytics Tool

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Paper published in the scientific journal “Viruses”

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Government and Noblis scientists uncovered a potential problem with the diagnostic techniques currently used to detect the Ebola virus.

Noblis, Inc., a leading provider of science, technology, and strategy services to the federal government, announced in a paper published this week in the scientific journal Viruses (, that government and Noblis scientists uncovered a potential problem with the diagnostic techniques currently used to detect the Ebola virus. Noblis worked with the Department of Defense’s Medical Countermeasure Systems (MCS), a component of the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).

The ongoing challenge to medical personnel in the field is to identify the Ebola virus as it continues, as does any virus, to evolve and change genomically. Using a whole genome approach and a novel algorithm called BioVelocity—developed by Noblis to run on supercomputers at their Danville, Virginia, Center for Applied High Performance Computing—the scientific collaborators identified ten new genomic signatures of the Ebola virus that were not found using current technology and identification techniques.

“Viruses evolve temporally and regionally,” noted Noblis scientist Walter Berger, “and there is evidence that the current Ebola virus is mutating more than expected. The diagnostics now in use have not been tested against sequences from these new variants and may not target the genetic regions that detect all the variants. Updates to genomic detection methods require that assays be developed and validated; most importantly, the optimal genomic regions for detection need to be identified. BioVelocity exploits the massive amounts of data generated by DNA sequencers to identify genomic regions that are conserved even when genetic variations occur and that are also signatures unique for that organism when compared to all other genomes of all other species—faster, more completely, and more accurately.”

“In high consequence outbreaks, it is critically important to assess how well current identification techniques perform against the species circulating in the outbreak. Whole genome sequencing of the circulating species—together with tools such as BioVelocity—can have a material impact on the spread of the disease, and on lives,” stated Dr. Shanmuga Sozhamannan of the Tauri Group, who supports MCS’ Critical Reagents Program (CRP) which develops and validates detection assays.

“Collecting and analyzing enough strains of these re-emerging pathogens enhances our understanding of the organism’s population dynamics,” states Dr. Michael A. Smith, Director of the CRP. “Programs such as CRP’s Targeted Acquisition of Reference Materials Augmenting Capabilities (TARMAC), collect the strains, and BioVelocity provides fast and complete analysis of the genomes needed. The diagnostics and medical countermeasures we develop are only as good as the data we have.”

Noblis is currently working to make BioVelocity available to other researchers and, more importantly, to support field personnel fighting the West Africa Ebola outbreak.

About BioVelocity
Noblis invented BioVelocity for clinicians, practitioners, and researchers in healthcare, pharmaceutical, government, and academic organizations that are practicing personalized medicine, developing genomic-based drugs, and performing longitudinal studies. Noblis’ BioVelocity is a bioinformatics platform including high performance computing infrastructure, our innovative algorithm, and our approach to genomic reference indices. It has demonstrated dramatic improvements in performance over current technologies. At speeds 50x faster than industry standard, BioVelocity delivers increased functionality, increased throughput, and improved accuracy—all at a lower cost. Through the ability to generate exhaustive alignments for all input reads against multiple reference genomes in one run, BioVelocity is very powerful for genomics solutions ranging from metagenomics and genomic analysis of pathogens, to human disease discovery research and personalized medicine. BioVelocity will enable realization of personalized medicine and will reduce the time (by weeks and months) for diagnostics and treatments, reduce the time to market (by months and even years) for new drugs, and allow medical practitioners to spend more time focusing on patient solutions.

About Noblis    
Noblis, Inc. is a nonprofit science, technology, and strategy organization that brings the best of scientific thought, management, and engineering expertise in an environment of independence and objectivity. We work with a wide range of government and industry clients in the areas of national security, intelligence, transportation, healthcare, environmental sustainability, and enterprise engineering. Together with our wholly owned subsidiaries, Noblis ESI and Noblis NSP, we tackle the nation’s toughest problems and support our clients’ most critical missions.

About Medical Countermeasure Systems
The U.S. Department of Defense’s Joint Project Manager Medical Countermeasure Systems (JPM-MCS) is one of seven JPMs within the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense. JPM-MCS facilitates the advanced development and acquisition of medical countermeasures and systems to enhance our nation’s biodefense response capability. MCS’ CRP serves as the principal source of high-quality, validated and standardized biological detection assays and reagents.

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Jennie Doran
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