Sherlock Biosciences unearths $80M to bring CRISPR-based tests into the home

The CRISPR-based diagnostic developer Sherlock Biosciences has tracked down $80 million in new funding to help bring its tests into the home.

The startup’s series B venture capital round represents a big boost to its coffers since its $35 million launch in 2019. Since then, the former Fierce 15 winner has secured an emergency authorization from the FDA for a COVID-19 test powered by the gene editing method in a step toward the company’s goals of providing diagnostics with PCR-like accuracy but without the need for complicated scientific equipment.

The financing was led by Novalis LifeSciences, which was joined by new investors Illumina Ventures Albany Capital and Catalio Capital Management, plus Sherlock’s previous backers Northpond Ventures, Good Ventures and others.

“The pandemic undoubtedly shone a light on long-existing challenges in our healthcare system, from inaccessibility to inconvenience and concerns around privacy,” Novalis partner Paul Meister, who will join Sherlock’s board of directors, said in a statement. “Diagnostic testing is ripe for disruption, and we believe Sherlock is uniquely suited to shift the testing paradigm across a range of applications with unmatched accuracy and speed.”

Sherlock previously worked with Mologic to develop rapid, “instrument-free” tests that wield CRISPR in a manner similar to a home pregnancy test, without requiring electricity or temperature controls. 

Instead of using CRISPR to make changes to a genome, Sherlock’s technology searches for specific RNA sequences such as the codes found in the pandemic coronavirus or other infectious diseases. Once it finds its target, the snipping actions relied on for gene editing are used to generate signals that can be read as a positive result.

The company also tapped funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop these shelf-stable tests for low-resource areas as well as for the home.