NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Engineering biology startup Sherlock Biosciences announced today that it has closed a $31 million Series A financing round, bringing its total committed capital to $49 million.
The firm launched a month ago with initial financing of $35 million, which included a $17.5 million non-dilutive grant from the Open Philanthropy Project and additional investments from undisclosed investors. The latest funding came from Northpond Ventures, Baidu Ventures, the Open Philanthropy Project, and others, the company said.
Sherlock launched with licenses to foundational CRISPR and synthetic biology technology from the Broad Institute and Harvard's Office of Technology Development. One of the company's foundational platforms is SHERLOCK (Specific High-sensitivity Enzymatic Reporter unLOCKing), which was first developed by the team of Broad researcher and company cofounder Feng Zhang in April 2017. The team made improvements to the technology in March 2018 in order to move it closer to use in the field and clinic. And a team led by Harvard professor Pardis Sabeti, another of Sherlock's cofounders, demonstrated in April 2018 that SHERLOCK could be used as a diagnostic tool to detect Zika virus in the field.
SHERLOCK combines various CRISPR-Cas13 enzyme types with Cas12a and Csm6 to allow for the simultaneous detection of multiple nucleic acids at once. It also has a bilateral flow strip made of paper — this visual readout doesn't require any additional instrumentation, much like a pregnancy test.
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 James Collins at the Wyss Institute. The technology can be programmed to distinguish targets based on a single nucleotide without an instrument and at room temperature. Collins, another of Sherlock's cofounders, will serve as a director on the firm's board.
The company said it will use the funds it has raised to advance the development of its core SHERLOCK and INSPECTR platform technologies.
Sherlock plans to use engineering biology tools, including CRISPR and synthetic biology, to develop a new generation of molecular diagnostics that can rapidly deliver accurate results for a vast range of needs in virtually any setting and at low cost. Potential applications include oncology, infectious disease, low-resource settings, agriculture, and at-home testing.
The additional investors will add strategic value and relevant experience in deep learning and artificial intelligence that will enhance Sherlock's products, the firm added.
"We are delighted to have the backing of Northpond Ventures, Baidu Ventures, and our additional investors as we advance our core technologies to develop better, faster, more accurate diagnostic tests," Sherlock Cofounder, President, and CEO Rahul Dhanda said in a statement. "Their support will be vital as we work to harness and direct the power of our SHERLOCK and INSPECTR platforms to develop rapid and more effective diagnostic tests through engineering biology and deep learning tools that can be performed anywhere, such as testing in the field or home."