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CrisprBits’ OmiCrisp tracks Omicron-derived JN.1 variant in sewage samples in Bengaluru

The test is currently being used to monitor sewage samples in 14 localities in Bengaluru

Bengaluru-based startup CrisprBits has developed OmiCrisp, a CRISPR-based testing platform for rapid diagnosis and surveillance of SARS-CoV2. The CRISPR-based test not only detects the virus but also distinguishes variants of the Omicron lineage from other previously known variants of concern. 

The test is currently in use by Molecular Solutions Care Health, for weekly monitoring of the Omicron-derived JN.1 variant in sewage samples from 14 localities in Bengaluru, funded by Blockchain for Impact. 

The CRISPR technology can specifically discriminate the actual base changes as the virus mutates, instead of relying on the absence of signal due to sequence changes.  

In a comprehensive study recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Biotechnology and Biomedicine, OmiCrisp was validated in 80 clinical samples and over 160 wastewater samples. The clinical samples were cross-validated against the highly accurate next-generation sequencing platform, while wastewater results were compared using approved qRTPCR tests. Notably, the CRISPR-based test demonstrated tolerance to poor-quality samples derived from sewage, highlighting its utility in discerning even single base changes in matrices of inferior stability. The study reveals a remarkable 99 per cent accuracy in detecting the Omicron lineage of the virus in both clinical and wastewater samples. The grant for wastewater surveillance validation was supported by Blockchain for Impact (formerly CryptoRelief, a community-run fund delivering relief during the recent SARS-CoV2 pandemic) and their partner GiveIndia.

“OmiCrisp validation is one of the first studies to employ CRISPR-based testing in environmental samples.”, said Prof Vijay Chandru, an author of the study, Chief Scientific Officer and Co-Founder, CrisprBits. 

 OmiCrisp was developed in collaboration with the C-CAMP-InDx (Indigenisation of Diagnostics program anchored at C-CAMP). The validation of the platform on clinical samples was performed with the support of DBT-inStem biorepository and the COVID testing laboratory at Strand Life Sciences. 

Dr Taslimarif Saiyed, Director CEO, C-CAMP said, “CrisprBits has brought home the cutting-edge CRISPR-Cas gene editing tool to a yet under-explored area of infectious disease management, that is environmental surveillance. Their latest platform OmiCrisp, a CRISPR- based one-stop diagnostic and screening tool for Omicron variant and its lineages has shown a remarkable accuracy of up to 99 per cent in both clinical and sewage samples. This has enormous implications for India’s pandemic preparedness for COVID-19 and other infectious disease outbreaks. I congratulate CrisprBIts and reflect on how this work is the best validation of C-CAMP’s effort to foster cutting-edge research-based innovation for societal impact.” 

“Our CRISPR-based platform enables point-of-need testing, offering rapid and accurate molecular diagnostics for critical areas, including the speedy detection of AMR (Anti Microbial resistance) pathogens in ICU, as well as food and waterborne infections during disease outbreaks,” expressed Dr Vaijayanti Gupta (COO), the corresponding author in the publication. 

 

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