CRISPR-wielder Mammoth Biosciences will team up with Agilent Technologies to help launch its upcoming COVID-19 diagnostic test, designed to handle more than 4,000 samples per day.
Applying the gene editing technology allows the system to operate much faster than standard PCR-based molecular lab tests, according to Mammoth. The company’s CRISPR-based DETECTR assay uses Cas12 enzymes to identify and tag the coronavirus’s specific genomic sequences and provides a visual result that can be read by a machine.
The two companies hope to increase the test’s throughput speed even more by connecting it with Agilent’s automated liquid handling systems and sample readers. Dubbed DETECTR BOOST, the platform aims to process about 1,500 samples over an eight-hour shift.
“A highly-automated workstation for SARS-CoV-2 testing provides the capacity needed to bring routine, robust testing to the broader market,” said David Edwards, associate marketing vice president for Agilent’s mass spectrometry division. “By partnering with Mammoth Biosciences, we will be able to provide a simplified workflow that addresses the specific needs of high-throughput clinical testing laboratories.”
Similar methods have been explored for COVID-19 tests that can be read with a smartphone camera and a darkened box using fluorescent molecules that produce a faint glow when matched up with the virus’s specific genetic material. Prior to the pandemic, the technology was being developed for HIV testing in low-resource areas.
GlaxoSmithKline has also tapped Mammoth to develop a CRISPR-based coronavirus test that could be available over the counter.
More recently, Mammoth announced a contract with MRIGlobal through the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA, to develop CRISPR-based diagnostics and biosurveillance technologies for the Department of Defense. This includes the development of a hand-held device capable of screening for 10 pathogens simultaneously and a lab system that can spot more than 1,000 targets at once.
Co-founded by CRISPR pioneer and Nobel laureate Jennifer Doudna, Ph.D., Mammoth previously received funding support from the National Institutes of Health through its “Shark Tank”-esque diagnostics competition known as the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics initiative, or RADx. The company said it plans to submit its test for an FDA emergency authorization in the near future.
“Mammoth’s mission is to address challenges across healthcare by harnessing the full potential of the CRISPR platform to read and write the code of life,” said Mammoth’s co-founder and CEO, Trevor Martin, Ph.D. “This partnership will help address the need for more widespread testing options for COVID-19, helping to fill the gap in the market as testing labs run into supply issues or reach capacity.”
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