Wastewater analysis can now be used to identify the B.1.1.7 variant of SARS-CoV-2
Cambridge, Mass. – March 31st, 2021 – In a scientific breakthrough, researchers have
successfully detected the B.1.1.7 variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in
wastewater samples across the United States.
B.1.1.7 was first identified in the United Kingdom and is commonly referred to as the “UK variant” in
the press. It is known to be more transmissible, and early evidence suggests that it may be
associated with increased disease severity.
“For over a year now, we’ve been empowering leaders with information about COVID-19 trends in
their communities, and variant detection is instrumental in supporting that goal,” said Dr. Mariana
Matus, Biobot CEO and Cofounder. “Launching B.1.1.7 analysis is the first step in a
wastewater-based epidemiology approach that will expand to other variants as the COVID-19
This breakthrough will provide Biobot’s national network of community partners with information
about the presence of B.1.1.7, while the teams continue R&D for other variants of concern.
“Excitingly, this method can be rapidly adapted to detect new variants of concern beyond B.1.1.7,”
said Professor Eric Alm of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Principal Investigator
who leads the team of researchers behind this novel method development at the Antimicrobial
Resistance (AMR) interdisciplinary research group of Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and
Technology (SMART), MIT’s research enterprise in Singapore.
“This method is uniquely tailored to the challenges posed by wastewater samples” said Dr. Wei
Lin Lee, a researcher from SMART AMR, and first author on the preprint detailing the methods. “It
is sensitive enough to detect variants in highly diluted SARS-CoV-2 concentrations typically seen
in wastewater samples, and produces reliable results even for samples which contain multiple
Biobot Analytics is now accepting and analyzing wastewater samples for B.1.1.7 and plans to add
additional variants to its analysis as methods are developed.
About Biobot Analytics
Biobot Analytics is the global leader in wastewater epidemiology. The company is led by Mariana
Matus, Ph.D., the company’s CEO and Cofounder, and Newsha Ghaeli, President and Cofounder.
Biobot uses the data present in wastewater to gain valuable insights that shape the health of
communities. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Biobot has worked with over 400
communities in North America to measure SARS-CoV-2 trends in sewage. Biobot is
headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., and is serving states and localities nationwide.
More information on our mission and technology is available at our website,
About Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) [新加坡-麻省理工学院科研中心]
Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) is MIT’s Research Enterprise in
Singapore, established by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in partnership with the
National Research Foundation of Singapore (NRF) since 2007. SMART is the first entity in the
Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE) developed by NRF.
SMART serves as an intellectual and innovation hub for research interactions between MIT and
Singapore. Cutting-edge research projects in areas of interest to both Singapore and MIT are
undertaken at SMART. SMART currently comprises an Innovation Centre and five Interdisciplinary
Research Groups (IRGs): Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), Critical Analytics for Manufacturing
Personalized-Medicine (CAMP), Disruptive & Sustainable Technologies for Agricultural Precision
(DiSTAP), Future Urban Mobility (FM) and Low Energy Electronic Systems (LEES)
SMART research is funded by the National Research Foundation Singapore under the CREATE
For more information, please visit http://smart.mit.edu
About Antimicrobial Resistance Interdisciplinary Research Group (AMR IRG)
The AMR IRG is a translational research and entrepreneurship program that tackles the growing
threat of antimicrobial resistance. By leveraging talent and convergent technologies across
Singapore and MIT, we aim to tackle AMR head-on by developing multiple innovative and
disruptive approaches to identify, respond to, and treat drug-resistant microbial infections.
Through strong scientific and clinical collaborations, our goal is to provide transformative, holistic
solutions for Singapore and the world.
For more information, please visit: http://amr.smart.mit.edu/#home
The work was accomplished in a partnership formed by the AMR interdisciplinary research group
in the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) and Biobot Analytics.
Instrumental to the research were Drs. Wei Lin Lee, Federica Armas, Xiaoqiong Gu and
Franciscus Chandra, researchers within SMART’s AMR interdisciplinary research group, and led
by Associate Professor Janelle Thompson of the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore,
and MIT Professor and SMART AMR Principal Investigator Eric Alm. The research was supported
by Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF) under the Prime Minister’s Office through its
Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE) program.