Sherlock Biosciences, an engineering biology company, has secured $7.5m funding from Open Philanthropy, a US-based non-profit research and grantmaking foundation, to advance the development of Covid-19 diagnostic.

Open Philanthropy has previously offered a $17.5m non-dilutive grant in 2019, to help the company develop its SHERLOCK platform, a CRISPR-based method to detect and quantify specific genetic sequences.

The current funding would help the company launch its Sherlock Innovation Lab to develop a home-based Covid-19 diagnostic, which leverages its Internal Splint-Pairing Expression Cassette Translation Reaction (INSPECTR) platform.

Open Philanthropy scientific research program officer Heather Youngs said: “We believe rapid next-generation diagnostics like those being developed at Sherlock will enable critical progress in developing technologies that could reduce the impact of viral pandemics and meet critical testing needs in the developing world.”

SHERLOCK platform is a CRISPR-based method to detect specific genetic sequences

INSPECTR platform has been designed to help create an instrument-free, handheld diagnostic test that can be applied across multiple diseases and in a variety of settings, by leveraging synthetic biology.

For the Sherlock Innovation Lab, the company is hiring synthetic biology experts to work exclusively on scaling INSPECTR for at-home and low-resource environments.

In addition to INSPECTR, the Sherlock Innovation Lab would also focus on advancing the SHERLOCK platform, which can be used at home, hospitals and in the field.

Recently, Sherlock has received the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for its Sherlock CRISPR SARS-CoV-2 kit, which marks the first FDA-authorised use of CRISPR technology.

Sherlock Biosciences chief technology officer William J Blake said: “We are deeply grateful that Open Philanthropy has extended its support of Sherlock at this critical time when the need for a low-cost, instrument-free solution for home and low-resource settings is so vital.

“The funds will allow us to address what we see as dual challenges: fueling development of solutions for the healthcare crisis globally and contributing to the economic well-being of our local community and industry.

“With unemployment accelerating due to the pandemic, we will be able to immediately deploy highly skilled talent with the expertise, commitment and passion to shape the future of molecular diagnostics.”