Cambridge-based engineering biology company Sherlock Biosciences this week announced its launch with $35 million in financing — and its eyes are on CRISPR gene-editing tech.
Sherlock Biosciences aims to make diagnostic testing better, faster and more affordable. The company uses engineering biology tools, including CRISPR, to create a new generation of molecular diagnostics that rapidly deliver accurate and cheaper results for a variety of needs.
One of its foundational platform technologies is named SHERLOCK — Specific High-sensitivity Enzymatic Reporter unLOCKing — which is licensed from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. SHERLOCK was developed to identify specific genetic targets using CRISPR and can detect genetic fingerprints across multiple organisms or sample types. The platform has been described in multiple published papers in Science.
In addition to SHERLOCK, the company is developing a synthetic biology-based molecular diagnostics platform called INSPECTR — Internal Splint-Pairing Expression Cassette Translation Reaction. INSPECTR is licensed from Harvard’s Office of Technology Development and can be programmed to distinguish targets based on a single nucleotide without an instrument and at room temperature. The development is being led by Sherlock co-founder James J. Collins, Ph.D., at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University.
SHERLOCK and INSPECTR can be used alone or in tandem to allow for detection and quantification of targets without complex tools and in many different environments.
“Engineering biology-based tools have broad potential to transform not just the treatment of disease but also how diseases are diagnosed,” Collins said.
Sherlock was founded with the mission to improve health worldwide through the development of disruptive molecular diagnostics, according to co-founder David Walt, Ph.D., diagnostics expert and professor of biology inspired engineering at Harvard Medical School.
The company believes its tools will be more effective than existing molecular diagnostic tools that have limitations due to their cost, required labor and lack of mobility.
Sherlock said it can overcome these challenges by creating tests that it claims are faster, less expensive and easier to use than existing molecular diagnostics.
Its financing includes a $17.5 million non-dilutive grant and an investment from the Open Philanthropy Project, along with additional investors.
“Development of this technology could both reduce viral pandemic threats and benefit healthcare more broadly,” said Heather Youngs, program officer for scientific research at the Open Philanthropy Project.
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