Cepheid and Sherlock Biosciences said they will partner on a proof-of-concept project focused on detection of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus as the first initiative of a broader collaboration focused on developing molecular diagnostic tests for infectious diseases and oncology.
The collaboration—whose value was not disclosed—is aimed at creating tests that can run on Cepheid’s GeneXpert® Systems, and apply Sherlock’s namesake engineering biology platform SHERLOCK, short for Specific High Sensitivity Enzymatic Reporter unlocking.
“Initially, we will explore the compatibility of our technologies for coronavirus detection, while pursuing a broad set of solutions that enable users to make more effective decisions in both clinical and non-clinical settings worldwide,” Rahul Dhanda, Sherlock’s co-founder, president and CEO, said in a statement. “SHERLOCK is an ideal platform for rapid response and development for any global outbreak, while also a powerful tool for affordable and rapid molecular diagnostic testing for routine assays.”
SHERLOCK a method for single molecule detection of nucleic acid targets that was licensed exclusively from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard—and developed by the company’s co-founders, which include CRISPR pioneer Feng Zhang, Ph.D. The co-founders launched Sherlock Biosciences in March 2019, then completed a $31 million Series A financing the following month.
SHERLOCK is designed to leverage CRISPR-Cas12 and Cas13 in order to detect the unique genetic fingerprints of virtually any DNA or RNA sequence in any organism or pathogen.
Cepheid’s GeneXpert System offers the ability to perform from one to eighty Xpert® tests at the same time. The Xpert test menu spans healthcare-associated infections, sexual health, critical infectious disease, and oncology—with 20 tests offered in the U.S. and 28 tests available overseas.
The companies said they plan to jointly pursue grants to fund further development of newer molecular diagnostic tests, so that future GeneXpert users can access expanded capabilities and a broader menu of tests. Cepheid and Sherlock added they may pursue opportunities in infectious diseases and oncology, including exploring how better to address outbreak scenarios.
“With a global installed base of over 23,000 GeneXpert Systems, this technology could potentially be applied in multiple settings where actionable treatment information is needed quickly,” stated David H. Persing, M.D., Ph.D., Cepheid’s chief medical and technology officer. “This partnership will allow us to explore utilizing Cepheid’s easy-to use-cartridge to further develop targeted molecular tests that better address outbreak scenarios.”
Added Dhanda: “We are excited to work on bringing our breakthrough CRISPR technology to Cepheid’s revolutionary GeneXpert platform, which should enable our companies to provide potential diagnostic solutions for a range of applications including infectious diseases and oncology.”