CRISPR and Synthetic Biology Platforms SHERLOCKTM and INSPECTRTM Hold Potential to Disrupt Diagnostics
- Founders include scientific pioneers and diagnostics veterans Omar Abudayyeh, James J. Collins, Rahul K. Dhanda, Todd Golub, Jonathan Gootenberg, Deborah Hung, Pardis Sabeti, David Walt and Feng Zhang
- Committed capital of $35 million includes a $17.5 million non-dilutive grant and an investment from the Open Philanthropy Project
- Leading intellectual property portfolio assembled from foundational technologies developed at the Broad Institute and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute
Cambridge, Mass., March 21, 2019—Sherlock Biosciences, an Engineering Biology company dedicated to making diagnostic testing better, faster and more affordable, today announced its launch and initial financing of $35 million. The financing includes a $17.5 million non-dilutive grant and an investment from the Open Philanthropy Project with support from additional undisclosed investors.
Sherlock is using Engineering Biology tools, including CRISPR and Synthetic Biology, to create a new generation of molecular diagnostics that can rapidly deliver accurate and inexpensive results for a vast range of needs in virtually any setting.
“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. “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.”
The company takes its name from one of its foundational platform technologies, SHERLOCK™ (Specific High-sensitivity Enzymatic Reporter unLOCKing), which is licensed from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. SHERLOCK was developed by a team led by co-founder and chair of Sherlock’s scientific advisory board Feng Zhang, Ph.D., and collaborators, as a method for identifying specific genetic targets using CRISPR. SHERLOCK can detect genetic fingerprints across multiple organisms or sample types and has been described in four papers published in the journal Science.
The company is also developing INSPECTR™ (INternal Splint-Pairing Expression Cassette Translation Reaction), a Synthetic Biology-based molecular diagnostics platform developed by a team led by co-founder James J. Collins, Ph.D., at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. The technology, licensed from Harvard’s Office of Technology Development, can be programmed to distinguish targets based on a single nucleotide without an instrument, at room temperature.
Used as stand-alone tools or in combination, these platforms allow for the detection and quantification of targets without complex instruments and in a variety of potential settings. The flexibility and modularity of these platform technologies open a wide range of potential applications and actionable insights in areas including precision oncology, infection identification, food safety, at-home testing, and disease detection in the field.
The company will employ a strategy of selective partnering and direct product development to apply these technologies into a wide range of settings and applications. The financing will be used to advance development programs and design new assays.
“Engineering Biology-based tools have broad potential to transform not just the treatment of disease but also how diseases are diagnosed,” said co-founder James Collins, Ph.D. “Sherlock Biosciences will make a significant difference in the world by bringing the power of Synthetic Biology and CRISPR to diagnostic development.”
The company’s nine co-founders include CRISPR pioneers, industry veterans and disease experts:
- Rahul K. Dhanda, MBA, president, CEO and director of Sherlock Biosciences; corporate leader and diagnostics veteran
- Omar Abudayyeh, Ph.D., CRISPR innovator—McGovern Institute Fellow, MIT
- James J. Collins, Ph.D., Synthetic Biology pioneer—Sherlock Biosciences director; Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering & Science and professor of biological engineering at MIT; faculty member, Harvard-MIT Health Sciences & Technology; founding core faculty member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University; institute member of the Broad Institute
- Todd Golub, M.D., world leader in cancer genomics—Founding core member, chief scientific officer and cancer program director of the Broad Institute; investigator at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School; investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute
- Jonathan Gootenberg, Ph.D., CRISPR innovator—McGovern Institute Fellow, MIT
- Deborah Hung, M.D., Ph.D., molecular biology and infectious disease expert; physician-scientist at the Broad Institute, the Department of Molecular Biology at the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School; co-director of the Infectious Disease and Microbiome Program at the Broad Institute; attending physician, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
- Pardis Sabeti, M.D., Ph.D., infectious disease expert and computational genomics leader—Professor, Center for Systems Biology and Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University and the Department of Immunology and Infectious Disease at the Harvard School of Public Health; institute member of the Broad Institute; investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute
- David Walt, Ph.D., recognized diagnostics expert—Sherlock Biosciences director; Illumina scientific founder; Hansjörg Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Medical School; professor of pathology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Howard Hughes Medical Institute professor
- Feng Zhang, Ph.D., CRISPR pioneer—McGovern Institute investigator, James and Patricia Poitras Professor of Neuroscience at MIT; core institute member of the Broad Institute; investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute
“We believe Sherlock Biosciences offers an enormous opportunity to improve human health worldwide by delivering fast, accurate and simple diagnostic testing. It is especially encouraging that the broad potential of its technologies is matched by co-founders and a team who are deeply experienced scientists, entrepreneurs and clinicians,” said Heather Youngs, program officer for scientific research at the Open Philanthropy Project. “Development of this technology could both reduce viral pandemic threats and benefit healthcare more broadly. We are excited to support Sherlock’s efforts to realize the potential of diagnostics and propel this technology into the mainstream.”
“Our team has the expertise and technology to transform diagnostics with a powerful set of Engineering Biology tools to enable rapid test design and deployment, an essential component of addressing many healthcare needs, including the growing problem of resistant bacteria,” said co-founder Deborah Hung, M.D., Ph.D. “After early experiments, our tools were quickly used in a wide range of geographies with real patient samples, confirming that we can swiftly respond to urgent healthcare needs.”
“We founded Sherlock Biosciences to improve health worldwide through the development of disruptive molecular diagnostics. We are delighted to have the support of the Open Philanthropy Project and our investors as we develop Sherlock’s platforms to achieve that goal,” said co-founder David Walt, Ph.D. “Existing molecular diagnostic tools are often limited in their effectiveness because they are costly, labor-intensive, and are not mobile. We believe that Sherlock is poised to overcome those challenges by creating tests that are faster, less expensive and easier to use than currently available molecular diagnostics.”
About Sherlock Biosciences
Sherlock Biosciences is dedicated to making molecular diagnostics better, faster and more affordable through Engineering Biology platforms. The company is developing applications of SHERLOCK™, a CRISPR-based method to detect and quantify specific genetic sequences, and INSPECTRTM, a Synthetic Biology-based molecular diagnostics platform that is instrument free. SHERLOCK and INSPECTR can be used in virtually any setting without complex instrumentation, opening up a wide range of potential applications in areas including precision oncology, infection identification, food safety, at-home tests, and disease detection in the field. For more information visit Sherlock.bio.