The first pandemic wave of COVID-19 in Italy significantly affected the activity of research laboratories. A survey of the Italian Cancer Society (Società Italiana di Cancerologia, SIC) revealed that during the lockdown period (March to May 2021), the impact of COVID-19 pandemic emergency on face-to-face research activities was high, with a complete (47.7%) or partial (36.1%) shutdown of the laboratories. During the pandemic, many cancer research laboratories were also involved in research and clinical activities related to COVID-19. A reduction in the activities of molecular pathology laboratories during the lockdown has also been reported. The emergency has forced a reorganization of the activities of our laboratory, which managed to ensure during the lockdown molecular diagnostic activities similar to 2019. However, this pandemic has also highlighted the need to increase the levels of automation in clinical and research molecular pathology laboratories, also to obviate the limitations of personnel that could occur in situations of emergency. The Genexus system can represent an ideal answer to these needs. In addition to verifying its suitability for molecular pathology tests, we were also able to validate a rapid sequencing protocol of the SARS-CoV-2 viral genome with Genexus that is suitable for monitoring the evolution of variants. Using the AmpliSeq technique, we could also describe for the first time in Italy the B.1.525 variant in February 2021, of which only a hundred cases were known in the world at that time.
1. Impact of pandemic on the organization of research and clinical activities of molecular pathology laboratories Learning objective
2. Relevance of automation in research and diagnostic laboratories