Waiting anxiously to receive results from expensive diagnostic laboratory tests could soon be a thing of the past thanks to a technological breakthrough. Engineering start-up Sherlock Biosciences, in collaboration with UK diagnostics company Mologic, recently announced they are joining forces to develop sophisticated molecular diagnostic devices simple enough for anyone to use - all from the comfort of home.
Backed by funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, this new venture aims to blend Sherlock’s proprietary synthetic biology-based platform with Mologic’s lateral flow immunoassays. The result? Easy-to-use diagnostic devices, completely bypassing the need for complicated instrumentation and expert technicians.
Lateral flow technology is already widely used for point-of-care testing, with the most common example being pregnancy test sticks. Biological samples applied to the device get drawn up through a membrane and flow over antibodies. Interactions between the sensor and a biological marker present in the sample trigger a color change that acts as a visual cue, indicating a positive or negative result.
The difference with Mologic’s platform is that it’s exceptionally sensitive, low-cost, has a clear visual readout and can potentially be applied to many infectious diseases, for which diagnosis is at present, a complicated affair.
The strategy of this collaboration is to amplify these diagnostic capabilities by coupling them with INSPECTR™, Sherlock’s synthetic DNA biosensor platform. INSPECTR™ (an acronym for Internal Splint-Pairing Expression Cassette Translation Reaction) is the result of research performed by Sherlock’s co-founders at Harvard University. Biosensors in INSPECTR™ can detect minute amounts of a target nucleic acid sequence in blood, saliva or urine. This drives the production of a reporter protein, which can be tailored to create a signature visual signal - a colored indicator or a fluorescent glow, for example.
Speaking on the significance of this development, co-founder, CEO and President of Sherlock, Rahul K. Dhanda said, “This program will enable us to build on the power of our INSPECTR platform to create diagnostic tools that provide accurate and affordable results in virtually any setting, while working with Mologic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop lateral flow technology to improve global health.”