A New CRISPR Kit and Mobile App Can Find out What Ails You

May 9, 2018 - 4 minutes read

CRISPR is a medical technology used to manipulate and change DNA, an activity also known as genome editing. The technology is the basis for what Mammoth Biosciences does; the San Francisco-based developer created a CRISPR kit and mobile app to help track down what might be the underlying cause of your digestion problems, for example.

CEO Trevor Martin says, “When I think of CRISPR, I really think of biology’s search engine.” Since CRISPR can precisely target which DNA bases to add, replace, or delete, it’s a versatile and flexible technology for MedTech applications.

Limitless Potential That Can Fit in Your Pocket

CRISPR can be used to cure genetic diseases like sickle cell anemia and cancer as well as detect viruses like Zika, dengue, and HPV. The technology can tell you if you’ve contracted a sexually-transmitted disease or a combination of viruses or diseases. It will change how hospitals test for diseases and viruses, and now, it’ll change how we genetically test ourselves in our own homes. CRISPR’s technology was pioneered by Jennifer Doudna, who also co-founded Mammoth Biosciences.

The new CRISPR kit is a credit card-sized paper test, similar to another CRISPR paper test out of MIT, called SHERLOCK. MIT’s team leader, Feng Zhang, is another pioneer of CRISPR, and he and Doudna are involved in a legal dispute right now regarding CRISPR. Martin says he can’t comment on MIT’s work. But he did say, “We’re just always excited when the potential of CRISPR is further reinforced.”

The idea is that the app would analyze the fluorescent signal or color change on the paper test by taking a photo of the results. The app then returns what you tested positive for. And although the company hasn’t fully created the process yet, they’ve got some “working prototypes” that are being refined and optimized for peak performance.

Making MedTech More Affordable

Martin says, “We’re moving to commercialize it quickly and have it available in the next few years.” He plans to release the test at an “accessible and affordable” cost, but exactly how much is unknown at the moment.

“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. 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,” he says.

With better access to diagnosing tools, patients lacking healthcare or the funds to bankroll their increasingly-expensive medicine will have a revolutionized MedTech experience. By keeping the cost of the test affordable and ensuring the results are reliable, this tool has unlimited possibilities. We can’t wait to see how others apply CRISPR, and how well the CRISPR paper test works when it’s released to the public.

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