The 221b Foundation Establishes Coalition to Control the Spread of COVID-19 in Nepal
Sherlock™ CRISPR SARS-CoV-2 Kit Designated as Essential Diagnostic Test for Nepal’s National Testing Strategy
Cambridge, Mass., January 6, 2021 – The 221b Foundation, a nonprofit organization established by Sherlock Biosciences to address the global COVID-19 pandemic and diverse representation in STEM, today announced an initiative with the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) in Nepal to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2 throughout the country. With contributions from Sherlock Biosciences, Open Philanthropy, Integrated DNA Technologies and MoHP, The 221b Foundation will provide support to the country of Nepal through financial assistance and donations of equipment and Sherlock™ CRISPR SARS-CoV-2 kits, which the country has designated as an essential diagnostic test for combating the pandemic. The total value of the donations is $200,000.
Dr. Dig Bijay Mahat worked closely with Sherlock Biosciences and MoHP to introduce and facilitate the adoption of Sherlock CRISPR SARS-CoV-2 testing kits in Nepal. In addition to his work with the coalition, Dr. Mahat is also a research scientist in the lab of Nobel Laureate Phillip A. Sharp at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT.
According to MoHP, the daily COVID-19 positivity rate in Nepal is around 20-25%. Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, and surrounding areas account for more than a third of all infections, raising concerns about the ability of hospitals to support the growing need for ventilators and intensive care.
“When we established The 221b Foundation, we felt strongly that we needed to support efforts worldwide to confront COVID-19,” said Rahul Dhanda, co-founder, president and CEO of Sherlock Biosciences and founding board member of The 221b Foundation. “By establishing a strong coalition to support Nepal and its Ministry of Health, we are collectively working to provide a critical testing need to assist a region facing a surging challenge with this pandemic.”
The testing will be supervised by MoHP with initial tests validated and run in the National Public Health Laboratory in Kathmandu. Initial efforts will support major cities, and the ramp up to support country-wide testing is expected to occur over the next few months. With infections increasing at alarming rates, a national testing strategy is the foundation of Nepal’s effort to manage the pandemic.
“COVID-19 has become a severe threat to our national public health, and we have established a plan to contain its spread, which is built on a strong testing platform,” said Dr. Jageshwor Gautam, the spokesperson for MoHP. “Sherlock’s CRISPR SARS-CoV-2 kit is ideally suited to address Nepal’s national diagnostic needs, and it represents one of many critical components in a broader plan that will successfully contain this pandemic.”
The coalition members have each committed to addressing the pandemic through testing, tracing, providing equipment or supporting communities most severely affected by the pandemic. The Sherlock CRISPR SARS-CoV-2 kit should provide capacity for a single site to run thousands of tests per day on simple and accessible equipment.
The SHERLOCK diagnostic platform can achieve single molecule detection of nucleic acid targets; its name stands for Specific High Sensitivity Enzymatic Reporter unLOCKing. SHERLOCK utilizes CRISPR activity for “smart amplicon detection” and can be adapted for use with existing diagnostic instruments, improving time to result due to its significant multiplexing capacity. When a specific sequence of DNA or RNA is present, a CRISPR enzyme is activated and, much like a pair of scissors, starts cutting nearby genetic material, releasing a fluorescent signal that indicates a positive result. In May 2020, Sherlock received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its Sherlock™ CRISPR SARS-CoV-2 kit, the first FDA-authorized use of CRISPR technology.
About The 221b Foundation
The 221b Foundation was founded with the dual mission to assist in the eradication of COVID-19, while supporting racial and gender diversity in STEM. By providing support and intellectual property that enables both non-profit and for-profit entities to develop CRISPR-based diagnostic testing, The 221b Foundation seeks to aid in the fight against the global COVID-19 pandemic while furthering access and diversity in STEM industries. Led by industry experts in the fields of diagnostic testing, STEM and diversity, The 221b Foundation envisions a world where advances in CRISPR technology fuel the innovations that will put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, please visit: 221bfoundation.org.
About Sherlock Biosciences
Sherlock Biosciences is dedicated to providing global access to the simplest and most accurate tests that empower individuals to control their own healthcare. Through its Engineering Biology platforms, the company is developing applications of SHERLOCK™, a CRISPR-based method for “smart amplicon detection,” and INSPECTR™, 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. In 2020, the company made history with the first FDA-authorized use of CRISPR technology. For more information visit Sherlock.bio.
Katie Engleman, 1AB