A 'Mammoth' boost to COVID-19 testing capacity

Mammoth Biosciences and Agilent team up to launch an automated solution for SARS-CoV-2 testing

January 28, 2021
DDN Staff

BRISBANE, Calif.—Even as multiple COVID-19 vaccine candidates approach regulatory approval, work is ongoing to develop additional diagnostics and treatments to keep up with the virus. Among the many companies pursuing such efforts are Mammoth Biosciences, Inc. and Agilent Technologies, who have established a co-marketing agreement for the launch of a complete CRISPR-based SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic solution combining Agilent's Bravo automation workstation with Mammoth Biosciences' DETECTR BOOST assay.

"A highly automated workstation for SARS-CoV-2 testing provides the capacity needed to bring routine, robust testing to the broader market,” said David Edwards, associate vice president for marketing in the Agilent mass spectrometry division. “By partnering with Mammoth Biosciences, we will be able to provide a simplified workflow that addresses the specific needs of high-throughput clinical testing laboratories. Agilent is honored to contribute in the fight to curtail the impact of COVID-19 alongside the global scientific community.”

Mammoth Biosciences refers to its DETECTR platform as “a search engine for biology.” As explained on the company's website, “Our proprietary testing system works by employing CRISPR nucleases, programmed to find a defined gene sequence. Upon finding the sequence of interest, the nuclease activates a cleavage capability, which generates a signal. The signal confirms the sequence has been found.” The platform is suited for applications such as bacterial infections, viral infections, single nucleotide polymorphisms, antimicrobial resistance, and cancer screening and profiling.

Agilent's Bravo is a liquid handling platform that can automate sample prep for applications such as compound, management, cell-based assays, and biochemical assays, according to the company's website. In addition, its VWorks control software enables users to quickly and easily create and run liquid handling protocols.

The companies say the combination of the DETECTR BOOST SARS-CoV-2 Kit and Agilent's automated liquid handling system offers a complete workflow for high-throughput COVID-19 testing, one that should support a multi-fold increase in testing capacity compared to existing solutions while maintaining highly accurate and sensitive results. The combined solution is expected to enable users to perform more than 4,000 COVID-19 tests each day.

“Mammoth’s mission is to address challenges across healthcare by harnessing the full potential of the CRISPR platform to read and write the code of life," remarked Trevor Martin, co-founder and CEO at Mammoth Biosciences. “This partnership will help address the need for more widespread testing options for COVID-19, helping to fill the gap in the market as testing labs run into supply issues or reach capacity.”

This deal comes just two weeks after Mammoth Biosciences shared news of another diagnostic-based agreement. The company announced on Jan. 14 that it had netted a subcontract with MRIGlobal, the prime contractor with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), for the development of CRISPR-based diagnostics and biosurveillance technologies for the US Department of Defense. Dr. Janice Chen, co-founder and chief technology officer of Mammoth, will lead this effort as co-principal investigator with Drs. Richard Winegar and Julie Lucas from MRIGlobal for the “Detect It with Gene Editing Technologies” (DIGET) program.

Under this contract, Mammoth Biosciences and MRIGlobal will aim to develop a handheld, disposable point-of-need device that can detect 10 pathogens at once and a lab-based, massively multiplexed detection platform that can screen clinical and environmental samples for more than 1,000 targets simultaneously. Mammoth Biosciences will stand as the primary subcontractor to MRIGlobal for the first device and will contribute to the latter platform alongside other partners.

“The DIGET program aims to create scalable and rapidly adaptable CRISPR-based diagnostics platforms to protect against future pandemics and biological national security threats,” stated Chen. "The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the lack of rapid and affordable diagnostics and CRISPR is poised to address that unmet need.”



Photo courtesy of Testalize.me on Unsplash

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