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CrisprBits develops OmiCrisp to detect SARS-CoV2

The test has been validated with significant contribution and expertise of DBT- inStem biorepository and the COVID testing laboratory

CrisprBits, one of the first Indian companies using CRISPR, a breakthrough gene-editing technology, has developed OmiCrisp, a CRISPR- based test to detect SARS-CoV2 and to determine whether it is an Omicron or non-omicron variant. The test has been developed with support and collaboration from the C-CAMP-InDx (Indigenisation of Diagnostics Program), an initiative supported by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India.

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The test has been validated with significant contribution and expertise of DBT- inStem biorepository and the COVID testing laboratory (The Institute for Stem Cell Science and Regenerative Medicine (inStem), an autonomous institute funded by the Dept of Biotechnology, Government of India), and Strand Life Sciences, a genomics-based research and diagnostics company

The patent pending OmiCrisp test uses the Cas12a enzyme and separate guides to target variant-specific sequences found in Omicron and non-Omicron variants of SARS-CoV-2. This is different from many other tests in the market that use RT-PCR signal drop-out to identify Omicron variants. The test was tested on over 80 clinical samples and was 100 per cent accurate in identifying whether a sample was Omicron or non-Omicron when compared to sequencing results. These findings are reported in a manuscript that is available on the medRxiv website before it has been peer-reviewed.

CRISPR is a family of ‘foreign’ DNA sequences found in the genomes of bacteria and archaea which form an antiviral defence mechanism in these prokaryotes. Awarded the Nobel Prize in 2020, this breakthrough technology formed the basis of diverse gene editing applications in humans and other organisms, including molecular diagnostics.

Dr Vijay Chandru, Co-Founder of CrisprBits, said, “CRISPR as a detection system for nucleic signal offers great promise to meet the need for pervasive and distributed diagnostic platforms. The accuracy of these tests on both clinical and environmental samples gives us great hope, as well as the ease of rapidly redesigning assays as new emerging variants of pathogens and resistance markers need to be detected.”

Dr Taslimarif Saiyed, CEO and Director, C-CAMP, said, “The CRISPR-based COVID diagnostic test developed by C-CAMP incubated CrisprBits, a startup that is also supported by C-CAMP-Indigenization of Diagnostics InDx program is a landmark in many ways. One of them is the translation of cutting-edge technology, CRISPR, to a product of immediate public health and social significance. The other is its implication for future surveillance of future infectious diseases and their progression in society. Together they underline C-CAMP’s mandate to foster science for societal impact.”

Commenting on OmiCrisp, Sunil Arora, Director and CEO, CrisprBits, said, “The pandemic has emphasized the need for public health research to focus on environmental surveillance. While RT-PCR tests are commonly used for diagnosing the virus, next-generation sequencing (NGS) is the most reliable method for identifying new strains and understanding their spread. Many low and middle-income countries, including India, have struggled to implement NGS on a large scale due to the cost, time and complexity involved. This has led to a lack of tracking and understanding of the virus strains in these populations. This is where OmiCrisp can play an important role.”

The OmiCrisp test is now being used in a study to detect the presence of Omicron variants in sewage samples in an ongoing collaborative study with the support of a grant from GiveIndia & CryptoRelief, a community-run fund delivering relief during the recent SARS-CoV2 pandemic.

The proprietary assay design of Omicrisp and its applications in both individual clinical samples and those from mixed samples like sewage has been filed for a patent.

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