Owner of lab with Miami’s 1st omicron case says more access to genetic sequencing is needed

The genetic sequencing lab where the first Miami-Dade County case of the omicron variant was detected continues to handle large work load.

MIAMI – CardioPath’s Cardiotropic Lab found the first Miami-Dade County coronavirus case of the omicron variant. Its owner believes Miami-Dade County needs more labs like his.

Aron Banks’s genetic sequencing lab used to focus mainly on identifying infections related to heart disease. The pandemic prompted the lab to prioritize polymerase chain reaction testing and genetic sequencing.

“We started shifting in early January when we started to analyze the data from the Wuhan coronavirus,” said Banks, the chief executive officer of CardioPath.

Banks said genetic sequencing still needs to be more accessible to get information quicker and to help prevent the next pandemic.

“By having sequencing labs in Miami-Dade County, we’re able to turn around results within 48 to 72 hours, significantly faster than per se, sending it out across state lines, and then waiting seven to 14 days for results,” Banks said.

Sequencing in local labs is critical because it provides real-time information to local public health officials and health care providers, so they can prepare the resources needed to save lives.

When the lab detected the omicron case, it also sent the sample to a second lab for confirmation. To perform the sequencing, Banks pays out of the company’s own profits.

“Sequencing typically runs on average cost-wise between $200 and $300 a specimen,” Banks said.

Banks said Miami-Dade’s first omicron case was from a patient who was tested at a local hospital who was unvaccinated and asymptomatic. His lab is providing services to hospitals, assisted living facilities, and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue personnel.

“I truly believe that if sequencing were more accessible and more cost-effective, we could stay ahead of potentially emerging pathogens that could result in a pandemic.”

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About the Author:

Amy Viteri is an Emmy Award-winning journalist who joined Local 10 News in September 2015. She's currently an investigative reporter and enjoys uncovering issues facing South Florida communities. A native of the Washington, D.C., area, she's happy to be back in South Florida, where she earned a masters degree at the University of Miami.