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Bengaluru-Based CrisprBits Develops OmiCrisp for SARS-CoV2 Diagnosis & Surveillance

Written by : Jayati Dubey

February 8, 2024

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OmiCrisp utilises CRISPR technology to specifically identify actual base changes as the virus undergoes mutations.

In a stride toward advancing diagnostic capabilities for SARS-CoV2, Bengaluru-based startup CrisprBits has unveiled OmiCrisp, a CRISPR-based testing platform designed for rapid diagnosis and surveillance of the virus.

OmiCrisp not only detects the presence of the virus but also differentiates variants of the Omicron lineage from previously identified variants of concern.

The CRISPR technology is currently utilised by Molecular Solutions Care Health LLP for weekly monitoring of the Omicron-derived JN.1 variant in sewage samples across 14 localities in Bengaluru.

CRISPR-Based Testing for Omicron Lineage Differentiation

OmiCrisp utilises CRISPR technology to specifically identify actual base changes as the virus undergoes mutations. This approach contrasts with traditional methods that rely on the absence of signals due to sequence changes.

"The qPCR tests that can distinguish the variant depended mostly on the mutations in the Omicron in the primer binding region. That prevents the primer from binding, and you get a signal in Omicron, called "Absence of signal". We use CRISPR technology, where a guide is designed specifically for the Omicron sequence & to the previous lineages. So, signal coming from Omicron detection is "presence of signal". Sewage samples are notorious for easy degradation & lower sensitivity because they are a mixed matrix. CRISPR being highly sensitive has an advantage there," shared Vaijayanti Gupta, COO of CrisprBits.

The technology's ability to discriminate specific mutations contributes to a more accurate and nuanced diagnosis, especially amid the emergence of new variants.

Validation & Study Findings

A comprehensive study, recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Biotechnology and Biomedicine, validates OmiCrisp's efficacy. The study involved testing 80 clinical samples and over 160 wastewater samples.

Clinical samples were cross-validated against next-generation sequencing, a highly accurate platform, while wastewater results were compared using approved qRTPCR tests. The CRISPR-based test demonstrated a 99% accuracy in detecting the Omicron lineage in clinical and wastewater samples.

Sharing her thoughts on the accuracy, Vaijayanti said, "The accurate assay can be used to continuously monitor sewage samples and raise an alert ahead of a full outbreak, giving the state machinery time to prepare. It's also cost-effective and far less labour-intensive compared to NGS tests. In ideal pandemic preparedness settings, the assay should be deployed to complement NGS and scale up surveillance. New variants can be identified easily using NGS. But to monitor the spread of those variants, the OmiCrisp-like assay can easily be deployed at scale and in low resource settings."

Wastewater Surveillance for Public Health Impact

OmiCrisp's application in wastewater surveillance is a strategic move to monitor the spread of the virus in communities.

Molecular Solutions Care Health LLP, with the support of Blockchain for Impact, utilises the CRISPR-based platform to monitor the Omicron-derived JN.1 variant in sewage samples—this approach, funded by Blockchain for Impact, aids in proactively identifying and managing potential outbreaks.

The development of OmiCrisp was made possible through collaboration with C-CAMP-InDx (Indigenisation of Diagnostics program anchored at C-CAMP). The platform's validation on clinical samples received support from the DBT-inStem biorepository and the COVID testing laboratory at Strand Life Sciences.

CrisprBits' Future Plans

Established in 2020 by five alumni of BITS-Pilani, CrisprBits aims to harness CRISPR technology for innovative solutions. The company, incubated in C-CAMP, is led by CEO and cofounder Sunil Arora.

CrisprBits has received support from various grants and private funding, emphasising the significance of their work in advancing molecular diagnostics. The startup is currently focused on launching its point-of-need instrument, PathCrisp, in 2024, targeting both clinical and environmental surveillance applications.

OmiCrisp's emergence as a CRISPR-based testing platform represents a notable advancement in the ongoing efforts to enhance diagnostic capabilities for SARS-CoV2. The platform's accuracy, especially in differentiating Omicron lineage variants, holds promise for proactive surveillance, timely interventions, and effective management of the evolving COVID-19 landscape.


About Chime India

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) is an executive organization dedicated to serving senior digital health leaders. CHIME includes more than 5,000 members in 56 countries and two US territories and partners with over 150 healthcare IT businesses and professional services firms. CHIME enables its members and business partners to collaborate, exchange ideas, develop professionally and advocate the effective use of information management to improve the health and care throughout the communities they serve. CHIME's members are chief information officers (CIOs), chief medical information officers (CMIOs), chief nursing information officers (CNIOs), chief innovation officers (CIOs), chief digital officers (CDOs), and other senior healthcare leaders. The CHIME India Chapter became the first international chapter outside North America in 2016 and is now a community of over 70+ members in India. For more information, please visit www.chimecentral.org

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