In times of a pandemic, managing the spread of disease is crucial. Tracking a disease allows for informed decision making on which measures to take, balancing medical, societal and economic factors. The current COVID-19 pandemic shows that the existing testing infrastructure is not built to handle large-scale outbreaks. National Public Health Institutes aim for testing results within a day, something which is currently not available. A lack of diagnostic information led to the implementation of strict, very impactful isolation measures in many countries.
Fast, accurate, on site diagnostics have the potential to enable informed decision making, optimizing the response to for example the COVID-19 endemic. However, COVID-19 is not the only infectious disease impacting society. Plant breeders, seed companies, food and feed producers, dairy farms, water treatment plants, all deal with prevention of outbreaks on a daily basis.
The identification of a pathogen by its genetic material: DNA/RNA, is the gold standard for reliable testing of pathogens. The most common technology used is PCR which has been greatly optimized over the years, yielding reliable results with high sensitivity and specificity, but its requirement for complicated hardware, plus that skilled personnel is required for its operation limiting it to laboratories, make PCR unsuitable for on site applications.
Over the past decade, the world of molecular biology has been subjected to several ground-breaking discoveries that have had consequences reaching far beyond its own field, the most recent one being CRISPR-Cas, in which Wageningen University and Research has had a pioneering role.
CRISPR-Cas’ most valuable characteristic is its extremely precise detection of DNA/RNA. This property makes it a useful tool for genetic engineering, but also makes it suitable for usage in diagnostics. In collaboration with the Laboratory of Microbiology, John van der Oost and Raymond Staals, we developed a novel detection & visualisation method based on our newly developed CRISPR-Cas system. The Scope Biosciences CRISPR Diagnostic is extremely accurate, fast and can be used on-site.
Scope Biosciences developed a technology which the following USPs:
- Detect pathogens within 20 minutes, on par or faster that all alternative detection methods.
- Isothermal, one-pot reaction which doesn’t require expensive material, which makes it suitable for on-site detection without requiring skilled personnel.
- Rapidly adaptable to different disease markers, making it possible for Scope to adapt the product both to detection of the same pathogen after genetic changes, or alter the diagnostic for detection of novel pathogens.
- Near single-molecule sensitivity, minimizing the false positive rate
- High specificity, able of detecting single-nucleotide changes, minimizing the false negative rate
- Usable on both RNA and DNA, making it usable for detecting all pathogens.