A team of scientists at Gladstone Institutes, University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) may have made taking coronavirus tests as easy as ordering something using your smartphone.

The new study published in the scientific journal Cell says that the team from Gladstone, UC Berkeley, and UCSF has devised a technology for a CRISPR-based test for COVID-19 that uses a smartphone camera to provide accurate results within 30 minutes.

According to SciTechDaily, Melanie Ott, MD, PhD, director of the Gladstone Institute of Virology and one of the leaders of the study said that it has been an urgent task for the scientific community to not only increase testing but also to provide new testing options that are quicker. Melanie further said that the assay her team developed could provide rapid, low-cost testing to help control the spread of coronavirus.

The breakthrough technique was designed in collaboration with UC Berkeley bioengineer Daniel Fletcher, PhD, as well as president of the Innovative Genomics Institute, and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Jennifer Doudna, PhD. She is a senior investigator at Gladstone, a professor at UC Berkeley.

Dr Doudna is also the winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for co-discovering CRISPR-Cas genome editing, the technology that underlies this work. The recent diagnostic test can not only generate a positive or negative result, it also measures the viral load, which is the concentration of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in a given sample. Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Investigator Dr Fletcher explained that when coupled with repeated testing, measuring viral load could help determine whether an infection is increasing or decreasing. With this information, health care officials will be able to keep a check on the course of a patient’s infection. It will also help medical staff estimate the stage of infection and predict, in real-time, how long it will take for recovery.

As the world battles the coronavirus pandemic that has affected millions of people worldwide, a major hurdle to combat the coronavirus pandemic and fully reopen the communities is the availability of mass rapid testing. With faster test results valuable insights about the potential spread and threat of the virus will be easily available for policymakers and citizens. But with recent tests like Molecular (RT-PCR) and Antibody (serology) test people have to often wait several days for their results, or even longer when there is a backlog in processing lab tests.