GSK taps Mammoth Biosciences to develop a CRISPR-based, over-the-counter coronavirus test

GlaxoSmithKline’s consumer products division is teaming up with Jennifer Doudna’s CRISPR-focused outfit Mammoth Biosciences to develop a new COVID-19 diagnostic that would be fast, hand-held and fully disposable.

GSK first plans to roll out the test as a point-of-care screener for clinics and hospitals this year, before offering it over-the-counter for use in the home.

“Our mission at Mammoth has always been to redefine the relationship that consumers have with their health, and through our collaboration with GSK Consumer Healthcare, we’ll be able to do just that,” Mammoth’s co-founder and CEO, Trevor Martin, said in a statement.

“COVID-19 is, of course, a key focus right now, but as a society what we need is a foundational shift in diagnostics—a scalable means to widely address disease detection,” Martin said. “With a CRISPR-based diagnostic we can achieve a rapid and true point of need test without compromising the accuracy of molecular testing for all types of infectious diseases.”

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Mammoth’s DETECTR platform—which uses CRISPR gene-editing technology to snip and detect specific sequences of the novel coronavirus’ RNA—could potentially provide results in less than 20 minutes from a nasal swab, without requiring sophisticated laboratory equipment.

Earlier this month, the FDA granted an emergency COVID-19 authorization to a CRISPR-based, high-throughput lab test from Sherlock Biosciences—the diagnostics company co-founded by fellow gene-editing pioneer and Doudna rival Feng Zhang. Sherlock, a Fierce 15 winner, is also developing a point-of-care test using its INSPECTR platform, designed to be instrument-free and stable at room temperature. 

Mammoth’s underlying DETECTR tech for COVID-19 is currently under agency review, while GSK plans to submit the testing device itself to the FDA for evaluation before the end of 2020.