Mammoth Biosciences Launches a CRISPR-Powered Search Engine for Disease Detection

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Mammoth Biosciences, a new biotech company, co-founded by CRISPR developer Jennifer Doudna is developing a device that uses CRISPR technology which helps to detect all kinds of diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and Zika.

Even though in prototype phase the technology is showing promising results. This CRISPR-dependent diagnostic tool may revolutionize how we test for the diseases and become a real game changer.

For detecting the diseases, the company is working on a credit card-sized paper test and smartphone app combo. The applications of this technology can be extended to agriculture, determine what’s making animals sick, detection of microbes in the soil and even to detect corrosive microbes in the oil and gas industries. However, the company wants to focus on human health applications first.

CRISPR, a gene-editing tool is well known for its ability to precisely edit DNA. The technology uses a mechanism found in nature – bacteria use CRISPR to defend themselves against viruses, cutting bits of their DNA and pasting it elsewhere. CRISPR is more than a gene editing tool, when combined with special enzymes, it can be turned into a precise diagnostic tool. Researchers have already showed earlier this year that CRISPR can detect Zika, dengue, and the HPV virus, as well as harmful bacteria and cancer mutations, in human blood, urine, and saliva. 

When CRISPR is paired with enzymes like Cas12a and Cas13a, they help to detect specific DNA or RNA and then snip a “reporter molecule” that releases a fluorescent signal. Mammoth Biosciences is interested in both Cas12a and Cas13a for its diagnostic tools, and is licensing its technology from UC Berkeley. The tech would work similarly to a pregnancy test and also the test could detect multiple diseases at once.

The CEO of Mammoth Biosciences, Trevor Martin said, “We’ve come so far in terms of technology, but still there are all these barriers in between us and having real access to understanding our health and our bodies and the environment around us more generally,” and further added “This is the type of technology that really breaks down those barriers and democratizes access to this type of molecular information about the world around us and we’re moving to commercialize it quickly and have it available in the next few years.”