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CRISPR-based diagnostics are poised to make an early debut amid COVID-19 outbreak

COVID-19 could give CRISPR diagnostics their first proof of principle

CRISPR could see its first direct application to human health much earlier than expected as the COVID-19 outbreak accelerates development timelines for CRISPR-based diagnostics.

Diagnostic testing for COVID-19 is currently conducted with real-time PCR tests that need to be run in centralized labs. Capacity and speed of readout are highly limited. While China has rushed ahead to produce and distribute PCR-based tests, doubts have been raised about the level of clinical validation (see “Plotting a Scientific Path to Counter COVID-19”).

Sherlock Biosciences Inc. and Mammoth Biosciences are shooting for improved diagnostics with CRISPR-based technologies that could increase and accelerate the detection of the novel coronavirus to better treat patients and control the spread of the virus. In addition to being quickly adaptable to new targets and offering a potentially rapid and specific readout, the tests are being designed for the point of care setting.

“This could be it for sure. The first real demonstration of value of the CRISPR technology.”

Rahul Dhanda, Sherlock

Prior to the outbreak, Sherlock had been targeting a 2023 launch for a CRISPR-based diagnostic test; it now hopes to submit its first COVID-19 test for FDA clearance this season, said CEO Rahul Dhanda.

Mammoth co-founder and CEO Trevor Martin

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