CRISPR Dx Developer Sherlock Biosciences Completes $31M Series A Financing

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Sherlock Biosciences says its just-completed $31 million Series A financing will enable further development of its platform technologies. They include INSPECTR, which is designed to enable highly sensitive molecular diagnostic tests that can be performed at room temperature without the need for lab equipment. Sherlock is licensing INSPECTR from Harvard University, whose Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering developed the technology. [Wyss Institute at Harvard University]

Sherlock Biosciences, the CRISPR-based diagnostics developer whose co-founders include a pioneer of the gene editing technology, Feng Zhang, PhD, said today it has completed a $31 million Series A financing, bringing to $49 million its total capital committed by investors.

The Series A round includes investments from investors that include Northpond Ventures, Baidu Ventures, and the Open Philanthropy Project, which has awarded Sherlock a $17.5 million non-dilutive grant. That grant was part of the $35 million in financing disclosed by Sherlock when it announced its launch last month.

Sherlock said proceeds from the Series A will be used to advance development programs for the company’s core platform technologies. These include SHERLOCK (Specific High-sensitivity Enzymatic Reporter unLOCKing), a method for identifying specific sequences of genetic material in a sample using CRISPR; and INSPECTR (INternal Splint-Pairing Expression Cassette Translation Reaction), which can be programmed to distinguish targets based on a single nucleotide at room temperature, without laboratory equipment.

“We are delighted to have the backing of Northpond Ventures, Baidu Ventures, and our additional investors as we advance our core technologies to develop better, faster, more accurate diagnostic tests,” Rahul K. Dhanda, Sherlock’s co-founder, president and CEO, said in a statement. “Their support will be vital as we work to harness and direct the power of our SHERLOCK and INSPECTR platforms to develop rapid and more effective diagnostic tests through engineering biology and deep learning tools that can be performed anywhere, such as testing in the field or home.”

Dhanda and Zhang—who chairs Sherlock’s scientific advisory board—are two of nine scientific pioneers and diagnostics veterans identified by the company as being among its co-founders. Others included Omar Abudayyeh, James J. Collins, Todd Golub, Jonathan Gootenberg, Deborah Hung, Pardis Sabeti, and David Walt.

Sherlock’s launch came about a year after another CRISPR pioneer, Jennifer Doudna, PhD, of University of California, Berkeley, and partners launched another CRISPR-based diagnostics developer, Mammoth Biosciences.

Mammoth is applying CRISPR technology licensed from Doudna’s lab to develop a point-of-care test enabling fast, simultaneous detection of multiple conditions, in real time, both in the hospital and at home, through a single credit card-sized strip form factor. In July 2018, Mammoth said it raised $23 million in Series A financing to fund initial development of its test.

New-Generation Molecular Dx

Sherlock was established to leverage synthetic biology and intellectual property related to CRISPR patents held by the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, where Zhang is based, and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.

The company aims to create a new generation of molecular diagnostics that can rapidly deliver accurate and inexpensive results for a vast range of needs in virtually any setting. Potential applications identified by Sherlock include oncology, infectious disease, low-resource settings, agriculture, and at-home testing.

Northpond Ventures is a Bethesda, MD, venture capital firm focused on investments in the life sciences, as well as technology and affiliated industries. Baidu Ventures, which has offices in Beijing and San Francisco, manages approximately $500 million in three funds, and focuses its investments on computational genetics and other applications of AI.

Baidu Ventures will provide expertise in deep learning as Sherlock refines and expands the capabilities of its two core technology platforms, Sherlock added.

“We are excited to work with the Sherlock team, which includes world-leading experts in CRISPR and Synthetic Biology, experienced scientists, and industry veterans, to incorporate artificial intelligence into the design of its diagnostic tests and fulfill the promise of these exciting technologies,” stated Saman Farid, partner and head of the U.S. team at Baidu Ventures.

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