Dr. Feng Zhang Launches New CRISPR Biotech to Create Better Diagnostic Tools


NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigator, CRISPR pioneer, and MIT Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Biological Engineering Dr. Feng Zhang and his collaborators have launched a new engineering biology startup, Sherlock Biosciences, aimed at providing better, faster, and more affordable diagnostic testing worldwide.

Sherlock is leveraging the power of two unique CRISPR gene editing applications, SHERLOCKTM (the company’s namesake) and INSPECTRTM, to detect diseases accurately and efficiently.

SHERLOCK (short for “Specific High Sensitivity Reporter unLOCKing”) uses a cocktail of a few different CRISPR enzymes to detect genetic signatures of certain diseases. In practice, all you do to perform the test is take a strip of special paper, dip it into a sample containing this new CRISPR system, and see if a line appears. If it does, then the sample contains the genetic sequence (or disease) of interest. Dr. Zhang spoke about the research that led to this technology at the recent NYSCF Conference, and this work was also featured in STAT last year.

INSPECTR (short for “INternal Splint-Pairing Expression Cassette Translation Reaction”) is a platform developed by Sherlock co-founder Dr. James J. Collins of Harvard University. This technology is especially versatile, as it can detect molecular indicators of disease based on very specific DNA sequences in biological samples, without any instrumentation and at room temperature.

These tools are fast, accurate, and inexpensive, making them advantageous for detecting a range of diseases (including infectious diseases like Zika, Ebola, or the flu) in the clinic, the field, or—one day—at home. They may also be applicable across fields such as precision oncology and food safety.

“Our founders have created some of the most important breakthroughs in modern science through advances in the field of engineering biology, the practice of designing and building biological systems into tools that can enhance human health,” said Rahul K. Dhanda, Sherlock’s co-founder, president and CEO in a press release. “We are building Sherlock to transform these breakthroughs into a new and powerful generation of molecular diagnostics that will enable users to make more effective decisions in both clinical and non-clinical settings worldwide – including hospitals, industrial settings, low-resource settings and at home.”

Learn more about SHERLOCK and CRISPR’s applications here.

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