Bengaluru startup's gene editing tool tracks JN.1 Covid variant in sewage samples

  • IANS
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Bengaluru startup's gene editing tool tracks JN.1 Covid variant in sewage samples

Bengaluru, Feb 5 (IANS) A novel gene editing platform OmiCrisp, by Bengaluru-based startup CrisprBits, is monitoring sewage samples to track the highly transmissible JN.1 variant of Covid in the city.OmiCrisp is a testing platform based on CRISPR, a breakthrough gene-editing technology, for rapid diagnosis and surveillance of SARS-CoV2.

OmiCrisp is monitoring the Omicron-derived JN.1 variant in sewage samples from 14 localities in Bengaluru every week, the company said.

The CRISPR-based test not only detects the virus, but also distinguishes variants of Omicron lineage from other previously known variants of concern.

The 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 the Journal of Biotechnology and Biomedicine, OmiCrisp was validated in 80 clinical samples and more than 160 wastewater samples with a remarkable 99 per cent accuracy, the company said.

The clinical samples were cross-validated against the highly accurate next-generation sequencing platform, while wastewater results were compared using approved qRTPCR tests.

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

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.

Founded in 2020 by five distinguished alumni of BITS-Pilani, CrisprBits is a startup incubated by Bengaluru-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP). It aims to bring innovative solutions using the CRISPR technology.

"OmiCrisp is 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 and other infectious disease outbreaks," said Taslimarif Saiyed, Director CEO of C-CAMP, in the statement.

CrisprBits is currently focused on launching its point-of-need instrument light platform, PathCrisp, in 2024, for clinical and environmental surveillance.



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