BOSTON, Dec. 7, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Ginkgo Bioworks (NYSE: DNA) today confirmed that it has collected, identified, and sequenced a pooled sample containing the Omicron variant from passengers on flights originating from South Africa and the United Kingdom and arriving at Newark International Airport on the 30th of November and the 1st of December. These samples were collected in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and XpresSpa Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: XSPA) in the course of servicing their joint air travel COVID-19 monitoring program. The program is implemented through Ginkgo's public health and biosecurity initiative, Concentric by Ginkgo and XpresSpa Group's XpresCheck™ subsidiary.
This joint biosecurity effort leverages Concentric's large scale group testing infrastructure and XpresCheck's in-airport testing platform to monitor travelers for COVID-19 and its variants. The goal of this program is to create a system that detects and provides information on the virus. Currently, the program is in four large airports: JFK International Airport (JFK), Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), San Francisco International Airport (SFO), and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), which was added during a recent expansion of the already-operational program.
Ginkgo launched Concentric last year as a core part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, Concentric has built a turnkey solution for states, cities, and school districts to make large-scale asymptomatic testing available to communities seeking data to help identify and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. This data, effectively used, can be a powerful tool in limiting transmission chains.
In the CDC-sponsored program, Concentric by Ginkgo is also performing viral sequencing on positive test samples. The goal is to quickly alert public health authorities of specific concerning changes with the virus. During this process, Concentric by Ginkgo confirmed the presence of the new Omicron variant. "The ability to remain flexible in our sequencing approach - especially in the early days of the emergence of a new variant - is a critical capability that can help us keep pace with the virus," said Dr. Birgitte Simen, who leads Ginkgo's sequencing team.
"This is why proactive biosurveillance is important - to build a robust weather map of what is entering countries so our public health leaders can make rapid and targeted intervention decisions and develop even more nimble response capabilities," said Matt McKnight, Chief Commercial Officer at Ginkgo Bioworks, who is leading Ginkgo's public health and biosecurity efforts. "Just imagine, if in March of 2020, airline passengers were getting tested at a massive scale. We would have had the information we needed to intervene and help mitigate outbreaks, perhaps minimizing costly shutdowns. We are working to build this capability now. Ginkgo cares deeply about how we use our platform, and we'll continue to apply it towards scaled biosurveillance tools for the fight against COVID-19 and future pandemic potential threats."
Today, Concentric by Ginkgo's integrated platform leverages a lab network that consists of dozens of partner labs to provide testing in 18 states (including the District of Columbia), primarily in K-12 schools, helping keep schools open and kids in class. Concentric's network has enough contracted and validated labs to serve tens of millions of individuals with pooled tests every week and Concentric stands ready to invest to expand this partner capacity.
"We are gratified that the biosurveillance program we developed in collaboration with the CDC and our partners at Ginkgo Bioworks is performing so effectively," said Doug Satzman, Chief Executive Officer of XpresSpa Group. "This platform provides passive monitoring at scale that can also be leveraged further across additional U.S. airports."
"The detection of the Omicron variant among arriving travelers, and the subsequent rapid public health interventions that followed, demonstrate the effectiveness of this collaborative airport-based surveillance testing program," said Dr. Martin Cetron, the Director for the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine (DGMQ) at the CDC. "Scaling up testing at airports is critical not only to protect communities across the country from this new variant, but also to have the infrastructure in place to respond to novel pathogens that may emerge in the future."
Ginkgo's overall COVID-19 response and biosecurity efforts encompass a variety of initiatives, including programs to support Moderna with process optimization for key raw materials used in the manufacturing of its mRNA vaccines–among them mRNA-1273, Moderna's vaccine candidate against COVID-19–as well as a collaboration with Aldevron which yielded a manufacturing breakthrough for vaccinia capping enzyme used for manufacturing of mRNA vaccines. Other examples of large-scale genomic pathogen surveillance include a program in collaboration with Biobot and the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services (HHS) on wastewater sequencing.
About Ginkgo Bioworks
Ginkgo is building a platform to enable customers to program cells as easily as we can program computers. The company's platform is enabling biotechnology applications across diverse markets, from food and agriculture to industrial chemicals to pharmaceuticals. Ginkgo has also actively supported a number of COVID-19 response efforts, including K-12 pooled testing, vaccine manufacturing optimization, and therapeutics discovery. For more information, visit www.ginkgobioworks.com.
About XpresSpa Group, Inc.
XpresSpa Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: XSPA) is a leading global health and wellness holding company operating three distinct brands: Treat™, XpresCheck™, and XpresSpa™. Treat is a travel health and wellness brand that will be providing on-demand access to healthcare through technology and personalized services. XpresCheck is a leading on-site airport provider of COVID-19 screening and testing with 14 locations in 12 domestic airports. XpresSpa is a leading airport retailer of spa services and related health and wellness products, with 43 locations in 21 airports globally.
To learn more about XpresSpa Group, visit: www.XpresSpaGroup.com.
To learn more about Treat, visit: www.Treat.com.
To learn more about XpresCheck, visit: www.XpresCheck.com.
To learn more about XpresSpa, visit www.XpresSpa.com.
Twitter: @Treat_Care and Instagram: @treat_care
Twitter: @xprescheck and Instagram: @realxprescheck
Twitter: @XpresSpa and Instagram: @XpresSpa
Ginkgo Bioworks Contacts:
XpresSpa Group Contacts:
This press release contains certain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the federal securities laws, including statements regarding the potential of Ginkgo's biosecurity capabilities and partnership with XpresSpa Group, Inc. These forward-looking statements generally are identified by the words "believe," "project," "potential," "expect," "anticipate," "estimate," "intend," "strategy," "future," "opportunity," "plan," "may," "should," "will," "would," "will be," "will continue," "will likely result," and similar expressions. Forward-looking statements are predictions, projections and other statements about future events that are based on current expectations and assumptions and, as a result, are subject to risks and uncertainties. Many factors could cause actual future events to differ materially from the forward-looking statements in this document, including but not limited to: (i) the effect of the business combination with Soaring Eagle Acquisition Corp. ("Soaring Eagle") on Ginkgo's business relationships, performance, and business generally, (ii) risks that the business combination disrupts current plans of Ginkgo and potential difficulties in Ginkgo's employee retention, (iii) the outcome of any legal proceedings that may be instituted against Ginkgo related to its business combination with Soaring Eagle, (iv) volatility in the price of Ginkgo's securities now that it is a public company due to a variety of factors, including changes in the competitive and highly regulated industries in which Ginkgo plans to operate, variations in performance across competitors, changes in laws and regulations affecting Ginkgo's business and changes in the combined capital structure, (v) the ability to implement business plans, forecasts, and other expectations after the completion of the business combination, and identify and realize additional opportunities, and (vi) the risk of downturns in demand for products using synthetic biology. The foregoing list of factors is not exhaustive. You should carefully consider the foregoing factors and the other risks and uncertainties described in the "Risk Factors" section of Ginkgo's quarterly report on Form 10-Q filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC") on November 15, 2021 and other documents filed by Ginkgo from time to time with the SEC. These filings identify and address other important risks and uncertainties that could cause actual events and results to differ materially from those contained in the forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date they are made. Readers are cautioned not to put undue reliance on forward-looking statements, and Ginkgo assumes no obligation and does not intend to update or revise these forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise. Ginkgo does not give any assurance that it will achieve its expectations.
SOURCE Ginkgo Bioworks