By Manas Mishra

(Reuters) – GlaxoSmithKline’s consumer health unit has tied up with Mammoth Biosciences to develop a test that uses a technology commonly used in gene editing to detect novel coronavirus infections, the California-based startup said on Wednesday.

The CRISPR gene editing platform has been hailed as a scientific breakthrough that could lead to cures for diseases driven by genetic mutations or abnormalities, but it has not yielded any approved treatments to date.

The companies aim to develop a new rapid test that can be used by a consumer at home, although Mammoth said it expects the test to initially be used in a clinical setting.

The test will use Mammoth’s CRISPR-based platform to identify the presence of viral RNA strands through a nasal swab and deliver results in less than 20 minutes, Mammoth said.

Healthcare professionals have stressed that the accuracy of a nasal swab test depends on how well the sample is taken – posing a challenge for household use without professional assistance.

Mammoth, co-founded by early gene editing pioneer Jennifer Doudna, was the first to develop a CRISPR platform as a disease detection system.

The tie-up marks a push into coronavirus diagnostics for Britain-based GlaxoSmithKline. Pfizer Inc holds a more than 30% stake in GSK Consumer Healthcare.

Earlier this year, GSK had partnered with Sanofi SA to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus that has killed over 322,000 worldwide.

“Using this CRISPR-based technology, you can actually create accurate tests, giving similar quality to what’s in the lab but in a ‘de-centralized’ format,” said Trevor Martin, Mammoth’s chief executive officer.

GSK and Mammoth expect to submit an application to gain the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization by the end of the year.

(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel)

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