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April 20, 2021

FYR Diagnostics Initiates COVID-19 Variant Tracking in Montana

Missoula company is the state’s first private lab to robustly and efficiently track the spread of variants using targeted RT-PCR technology

FYR Diagnostics, a Missoula-based biotech company, is now helping track the growing number of COVID-19 variants that are present in Montana, some of which are believed to be more transmissible and lethal. Select positive COVID-19 samples processed by FYR will be screened using a multiplexed RT-PCR assay to detect SARS-CoV-2 genetic signatures associated with the UK (B.1.1.7), South African (B.1.351), Brazil (P.1), New York (B.1.526), and Nigerian (B.1.525) variants. A test that will identify the Californian variants (B.1.429+B.1.427) will be implemented soon. Samples identified as potential variants are then subjected to genetic sequencing at the Montana State Lab to confirm the presence of any variants and provide the information to the CDC. 100% of the suspected variants detected with FYR’s test and sent for sequencing at the Montana State Lab have been confirmed as a variant.

There is currently a bottleneck for the sequencing of COVID-19 samples, which is the definitive method required by the CDC to confirm the presence of variants.  FYR’s ability to rapidly and precisely identify key samples to prioritize for sequencing allows for the more efficient use of scarce sequencing resources.

“As new variants of COVID-19 emerge, they can have a potentially significant impact on the way the virus transmits and attacks the body. This could cause another surge in illness and death as has been seen in the United Kingdom, Brazil, South Africa, New York and California. Variants may also reduce the efficacy of the vaccines currently being deployed. We are glad to help be a part of the efforts in Montana to keep track of these variants and assist with these public health efforts in our state” says Dr. Chris Booth, CEO of FYR Diagnostics.

Background: The current primary methodology of identifying COVID-19 samples that should be sequenced to assess for COVID-19 variants of concern (VOC) is called Spike-gene Target Failure (SGTF). Due to a deletion in the Spike gene in the UK variant and some other variants, a commonly used diagnostic RT-PCR test fails at detecting this gene. Unfortunately, SGTF can occur even without the VOC being present, so this method does not guarantee that a VOC, such as the UK variant, is present. A recent study1 has shown that SGTF has a 45% success rate of detecting the B.1.1.7 variant.   Additionally, the deletion that causes SGTF is not present in the South African, Brazil, or Californian variants, meaning that SGTF is unable to identify samples that could potentially be these variants.

“Phylogenetic tree of SARS-CoV-2 in the United States generated by Nextstrain (www.nextstrain.org) enabled by data from GISAID between Dec 2019 and Mar 2021”

If your Montana-based organization is in need of COVID-19 testing, please reach out to FYR Diagnostics at covid19@fyrdiagnostics.com.

Thanks to support from the State of Montana, FYR’s partnership with the State Lab has increased statewide COVID-19 testing capacity and reduced the time patients must wait to receive results.


  1. Washington, N. L. et al. Genomic epidemiology identifies emergence and rapid transmission of SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 in the United States. 1–19 (2021) doi:10.1101/2021.02.06.21251159.


About FYR Diagnostics
FYR (pronounced “Fire”) Diagnostics is a Montana-based company focused on developing and commercializing novel technology for diagnostics and testing in human health, life sciences, and agriculture. FYR Diagnostics is currently developing diagnostic solutions for cancers, neurological disorders, agricultural diseases, and neonatal-associated syndromes. For more information, visit fyrdiagnostics.com.

FYR Diagnostics Inc
1121 E Broadway St.
Missoula, MT 59802
General Inquiries: press@fyrdiagnostics.com
COVID-19 Inquiries: covid19@fyrdiagnostics.com

Forward-Looking Statement
This release is intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon to make any investment decision, as it was prepared without regard to any specific objectives, or financial circumstances. This is not a solicitation to buy or sell any securities. This release is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for tax, legal, accounting, or investment advice.  The forward-looking statements herein constitute an expression of opinion, which may or may not prove to be accurate.