The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted its first-ever emergency approval to use the gene-editing technology CRISPR to detect the coronavirus.
The test was developed by Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Sherlock Biosciences.
“CRISPR has come of age,” said Rahul Dhanda, president and CEO of Sherlock, according to Forbes. “Not only are we validating and first to prove CRISPR’s capabilities of any therapeutic or diagnostic company, but it’s also addressing one of the greatest healthcare issues to emerge in our lifetime.”
A patient sample is taken from the nose or throat and copies are made of the genetic material while keeping them at a certain temperature. Then a CRISPR molecule called Cas13 is added to the sample copies. If the molecule detects an RNA sequencing from SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen responsible for the coronavirus, it latches on and cuts them up in smaller pieces, some of which are tagged with a fluorescent marker, according to Forbes. Once detached, the sample starts to glow indicating a positive finding of COVID-19.
The beauty of the CRISPR test, says Dhanda, is its ability to adapt to detect even new strains of the virus if it mutates, unlike other tests on the market. According to the Daily Mail, officials say the test detects coronavirus 100% of the time, meaning it produces no false negatives.
Dhanda adds that until the pandemic subsides, the Sherlock team will be focusing on developing COVID-19 solutions. He said he told everyone in his company to concentrate on developing a COVID-19 solution two months ago and their efforts have paid off.
Right now, he is working with a partner to scale up production and will reveal plans to distribute the kits in the next few weeks.
“It was the most amazing thing I’ve seen in my career,” he said. “They stepped up and they made history.”
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