CrisprBits, a startup incubated by Bengaluru-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP), has developed a test called OmiCrisp to detect the coronavirus and determine whether it is an Omicron or non-Omicron variant.
The test has been developed in collaboration with C-CAMP-InDx (indigenization of diagnostics programme), an initiative supported by the central Department of Biotechnology.
CrisprBits uses CRISPR, a gene-editing technology. “The test has been validated with significant contribution and expertise of the Department of Biotechnology’s inStem (Institute for Stem Cell Science and Regenerative Medicine) bio-repository and Strand Life Sciences, a genomics-based research and diagnostics company. This is different from many other tests in the market that use RT-PCR signal dropout to identify Omicron variants. The test was tested on over 80 clinical samples and was 100 per cent accurate in identifying whether a sample was Omicron or non-Omicron when compared with sequencing results,” CrisprBits said in a statement.
Dr Taslimarif Saiyed, CEO and director of the C-CAMP, said the test was a landmark in many ways, “one of them being the translation of a cutting-edge technology, CRISPR, to a product of immediate public health and social significance”. Another way is its implication for future surveillance for infectious diseases in society, he said. “Together they underline C-CAMP’s mandate to foster science for societal impact,” he added.
Sunil Arora, director and CEO of CrisprBits, said that while RT-PCR tests were commonly used for diagnosing coronavirus, next-generation sequencing (NGS) was the most reliable method for identifying new strains and understanding their spread. “Many low- and middle-income countries, including India, have struggled to implement NGS on a large scale due to the cost, time and complexity involved. This has led to a lack of tracking and understanding of the virus strains in these populations. This is where OmiCrisp can play an important role,” he said.
The OmiCrisp test is being used in a study to detect the presence of Omicron variants in sewage samples in a collaborative study with a grant from GiveIndia, which describes itself as the country’s largest and most trusted giving platform, and the community-run fund CryptoRelief.