16 minutes News

16 Minutes on the News #30: CRISPR for Covid Testing and FDA EUAs

Andy Tran, Jorge Conde, and Sonal Chokshi

Posted May 17, 2020

As calls for better, faster, cheaper, portable testing for COVID-19 disease are heard around the world — given the important role of test-trace-isolate in re-opening the economy! — the FDA recently issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for a CRISPR-based diagnostic.

It’s the first authorized use of CRISPR technology for an infectious disease test. So we discuss this topic in this week’s episode of 16 Minutes — our show where we cover the news headlines, tease apart what’s hype/what’s real from our vantage point in tech, and share where we are on the overall arc of various trends — covering:

  • where are we with testing for COVID overall given the taxonomy of what’s already here and what’s coming;
  • where are we with CRISPR technology, given that this is the one of the first times it’s being used for diagnostics vs. therapeutics (and that clinical trials are only coming of age there now;
  • how does this work, and how does this type of CRISPR compare to the PCR approach for testing; and
  • how do EUAs and more play out given past policy debates and discussions of CRISPR and gene editing

…with a16z general partner Jorge Conde and bio deal team partner Andy Tran, in conversation with Sonal Chokshi.

On 16 Minutes, we also offer frameworks for thinking about the topics covered, so we also discuss: the tradeoffs between specificity and sensitivity when it comes to testing, especially when there’s a big difference in false positives in testing for the disease vs. testing for antibodies; the tradeoffs between decentralized vs. centralized testing (getting the sample to the test or getting the test to the sample), especially given the potential for pregnancy-kit like tests here; and the tradeoffs between specific, scalable, and sensible testing …Is it possible to have it all when it comes to CRISPR??