The 221b Foundation and LogicInk have signed a licence agreement under which the latter will use Sherlock Biosciences’ CRISPR technology to create an instrument-free diagnostic biosensor for Covid-19 virus detection.

A non-profit organisation, The 221b Foundation was formed by Sherlock Biosciences to address the Covid-19 pandemic situation.

As part of the collaboration, Sherlock’s CRISPR diagnostic technology will be combined with LogicInk’s DNA nanotechnology platform. This could potentially find a suitable colour combination for simple self-administration and screening of Covid-19.

LogicInk’s solution is economically and logistically viable for Covid-19 mass testing as it can be produced in bulk and needs no instrumentation, Sherlock Biosciences said.

The new non-invasive, saliva-based test is expected to have similar sensitivity to standard solutions but not need a centralised lab or skilled users for execution.

LogicInk founder and CEO Carlos Olguin said: “There is tremendous financial and logistical need for an easy-to-use test that does not require any testing cartridges or other complex devices to support large-scale, decentralised testing for Covid-19.

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“Last year, the Sherlock team made history with the first Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorisation of CRISPR, and we’re excited to combine this same technology with our own to develop a rapid, instrument-free test that can be leveraged in a range of venues, including at home and in point-of-care settings like doctor’s offices, pharmacies and mobile clinics.”

Sherlock uses CRISPR activity for smart amplicon detection. It can be modified for use with current diagnostic devices to enhance time to result because of its substantial multiplexing capacity.

A CRISPR enzyme is activated when a specific DNA or RNA sequence is detected and cuts nearby genetic material to emit a fluorescent signal that signifies a positive result.

Last December, Sherlock Biosciences received a grant worth $5m from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to advance the development of its instrument-free, synthetic biology-based molecular diagnostics platform for Covid-19.