The game’s afoot for CRISPR diagnostic developer Sherlock Biosciences. The company hopes to speed up its path to market through the acquisition of the rapid test maker Sense Biodetection.
Based in Oxford, U.K., Sense has been working on an instrument-free platform for molecular diagnostics, which aligns with Sherlock’s goal of providing simple screening tests that can be completed nearly anywhere. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Sense acquired a CE Mark approval in Europe last year for its Veros test for COVID-19. Though about the same size and shape as an antigen test—with positive results delivered via the now-familiar line on a strip—Veros’ disposable, battery-powered diagnostic instead works to amplify the coronavirus’ genetic material similar to a lab-based PCR test.
This helps deliver high sensitivity and specificity without the need for extra hardware. Sherlock hopes to merge the approach with its CRISPR-based technology, and wield Sense’s manufacturing facilities to expand the former Fierce 15 winner’s platform into tests for a variety of conditions, ranging from respiratory infections to sexually transmitted diseases.
Sherlock received an emergency authorization from the FDA for its CRISPR technology early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, in May 2020, with early evaluations showing zero false positives or false negatives from a kit designed for use in a high-volume hospital lab.
More recently, the company collected $80 million in March 2022 for a big boost to its venture capital funding and a step toward its goal of translating its tech into a test that can be used in the home. Sherlock has also previously worked with Mologic to develop rapid, instrument-free genetic diagnostics similar to a home pregnancy test, that operate without electricity or temperature controls.
Instead of using CRISPR to make changes to a genome, Sherlock’s technology searches for specific RNA sequences and then snips them in a way that generates signals that can be read as a positive result.
Sense, meanwhile, raised $65 million over the course of 2021, alongside announcements that it had doubled its laboratory capacity by moving into new digs in its Oxford home while building out its commercial and financial C-suite.