GlaxoSmithKline (GSK -1.12%) is working with Mammoth Biosciences to develop a CRISPR-based test for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

CRISPR is a gene-editing tool that's typically being used by companies and researchers aiming to develop cures for diseases. The system can edit DNA in a specific place by searching the DNA for a specific sequence, then cutting the DNA at that spot to make the edit.

Mammoth, on the other hand, is using CRISPR's ability to search for a specific DNA sequence to detect the presence of genes from the virus, then using the cutting as a reporter of a positive test.

Unlike most current COVID-19 tests, the CRISPR-based test would be handheld and wouldn't require laboratory-based machines to process the samples. The disposable tests could give results in less than 20 minutes.

Mammoth and GlaxoSmithKline hope to have the test submitted to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization by the end of 2020. The test will first be marketed for use by healthcare providers who would have employees perform them at testing sites, but the companies eventually plan to make it available for use by consumers at home.

Man in a car getting a nasal swab test

Image source: Getty Images.

The companies didn't disclose the financial terms of their agreement nor how much the test is expected to cost. After developing a COVID-19 test, the companies plan to explore using Mammoth's technology to develop other diagnostic tests for consumer use.

Mammoth and GlaxoSmithKline are trailing Sherlock Biosciences, which gained FDA authorization for its CRISPR-based COVID-19 test earlier this month, although Sherlock's current version still requires a machine in a laboratory to process the test. Sherlock is also working on a self-contained test that could be used by individuals at home.