Hamamatsu manufactures a wide range of off-the-shelf and custom OEM photonic solutions currently employed in the global effort to detect, monitor, treat and ultimately defeat the COVID-19 global pandemic. From complete slide scanning systems to ultra-sensitive cameras to single point detectors, we are committed to providing the medical and life sciences communities with reliable, high quality photonic instrumentation, and we are profoundly aware of our obligation to participate in the amazing worldwide collaboration battling this devastating disease. We are currently prioritizing our response to help our partners in research and in instrumentation development and ultimately frontline workers fight the pandemic with increased testing, diagnostics and research tools. We recognize the urgent needs in this global collaboration and have greatly ramped up our manufacturing to support specific photonic applications that are making a difference including real-time PCR, antibody testing, X-ray and CT imaging, digital pathology and broader research applications like genotyping and next generation sequencing.
A variety of photonics technologies are employed to diagnose whether or not patients have the coronavirus. Chief among these is reverse transcription quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR), but other technologies including immunochromatographic readers and even next generation sequencing (NGS) have emerged to provide frontline workers and laboratories with the higher throughput and rapid detection that is desperately needed worldwide. Our detectors, cameras, and spectrometers are used in many of these instruments to detect fluorescent or colorimetric signals emitted by the molecular components of the virus. Surface-enhanced Raman spectrometer (SERS) modules are also being investigated as tools to detect discrete characteristics of the components that make up viruses.
Understanding the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 is critical to vaccine development, and research into how different people are affected by COVID-19 can determine treatment strategies for those infected. Simple lateral flow strips can be used with fluorescent and colorimetric readers to determine the presence of antibodies. Additionally, complex whole blood immunoassay instruments employ highly sensitive photomultipliers (e.g., PMTs) for chemiluminescent assays. Advancements in spectrometer technology are also paving the way for the next generation of immunoassay instruments.
Broader research into the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, how it differs in genetic structure around the world, our immune response and treatment strategies when infected employ a variety of photonic instruments. Examples of research and screening instrumentation include next gen sequencers (NGS) and microarrays for population studies and genotyping, flow cytometers for vaccine development and immune research, digital pathology and microscopes for biopsy and autopsy analysis of tissue, and high throughput drug discovery instruments for therapeutics. Additional research is being done to develop SERS assays and portable SERS techniques for the early identification of viruses, such as Influenza A virus .
 Dutton, G. (2020, August 24). SERS Assay IDs Viral Mutations Early, Providing a Heads-Up for New Outbreaks and Vaccine Designers
In this interview with Laser Focus World, James Butler from Hamamatsu discusses efforts in relation to specific photonic applications that are making a difference, including real-time PCR, antibody testing, X-ray and CT imaging, digital pathology, and broader research applications such as genotyping and next generation sequencing.
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