May 7th 2020 will be remembered as a good day for CRISPR. Yesterday the first CRISPR/Cas-based test received Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The Sherlock SARS-CoV2 kit works by programming a CRISPR enzyme to detect the coronavirus genetic signature, providing results in about one hour. Quickly and cheaply indeed, as the materials for one test cost about $6.
“We have made history with the very first FDA-authorized use of CRISPR technology, which will be used to rapidly identify the virus that causes COVID-19,” Sherlock Bio’s co-founder Rahul Dhanda exulted in the company’s press-release. “Congratulations and thank you to the entire @Sherlock_Bio team for achieving this huge milestone for the #CRISPR field. Proud of all teams working hard to fight this pandemic”, tweeted CRISPR pioneer Feng Zhang.
The future looks bright for CRISPR diagnostics, according to the New York Times. “The researchers tried out the test on samples from 12 patients with Covid-19. For 11 of them, they successfully detected the virus on 3 out of 3 tries. For the 12th, they succeeded 2 out of 3 times. When they tested five healthy people, all consistently tested negative. The test worked both on nasal swabs and saliva”, reported Carl Zimmer a few days ago. Other researchers may try out the procedure following the instructions in the STOPCovid website.