GSK ties up with gene editing start-up Mammoth for COVID-19 test

LONDON: GlaxoSmithKline's consumer health unit has tied up with Mammoth Biosciences to develop a test that uses a technology commonly used in gene editing to detect novel coronavirus infections, the California-based startup said on Wednesday (May 20).

The CRISPR gene editing platform has been hailed as a scientific breakthrough that could lead to cures for diseases driven by genetic mutations or abnormalities, but it has not yielded any approved treatments to date.



The companies aim to develop a new rapid test that can be used by a consumer at home, although Mammoth said it expects the test to initially be used in a clinical setting.

The test will use Mammoth's CRISPR-based platform to identify the presence of viral RNA strands through a nasal swab and deliver results in less than 20 minutes, Mammoth said.

Healthcare professionals have stressed that the accuracy of a nasal swab test depends on how well the sample is taken – posing a challenge for household use without professional assistance.

Mammoth, co-founded by early gene editing pioneer Jennifer Doudna, was the first to develop a CRISPR platform as a disease detection system.



The tie-up marks a push into coronavirus diagnostics for Britain-based GlaxoSmithKline. Pfizer Inc holds a more than 30 per cent stake in GSK Consumer Healthcare.

Earlier this year, GSK had partnered with Sanofi SA to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus that has killed over 322,000 worldwide.

"Using this CRISPR-based technology, you can actually create accurate tests, giving similar quality to what's in the lab but in a 'de-centralised' format," said Trevor Martin, Mammoth's chief executive officer.

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