She had long been working on applying CRISPR to diagnostics via her lab at Berkeley, as well as companies she co-founded, Caribou Biosciences and Mammoth Biosciences — with the latter now developing a COVID test.
The test Mammoth has created uses CRISPR technology, but rather than programming a protein to find a bit of gene to cut out, it detects it.
There’s another benefit to developing CRISPR diagnostics: Doudna says that if a Sars-Cov-2 test works, it should work on other viruses, meaning all the frantic effort to create these diagnostic tools will be of benefit in the next pandemic, whenever it lands.
Researchers at Stanford University were working on ways to use CRISPR to fight influenza, but pivoted to coronavirus when the pandemic hit, pairing a virus-killing enzyme with guide RNA in an effort to meddle with genetic code in SARS-COV-2, in the hopes of preventing it from replicating.
For Covid-19, the faster pace of CRISPR diagnostic development and regulatory approval could give us at-home tests that don’t need to be sent away to the lab — giving us an answer in minutes if we’re infected, letting us get back to work, travel, and whatever else we’re missing in lockdown.