Integration of Biology & Electronics: how could graphene electronics speed up CRISPR adoption? Or drive the market growth of CRISPR technology? – A YOLE’S INSIGHTS

Courtesy of UC Berkeley and the Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) of The Claremont colleges

An article written by Asma Siari, Technology & Market Analyst, Biotechnologies & Molecular Innovations at Yole Développement (Yole) – With all the successful technological advances in electronic systems in terms of cost, size, speed of sensing and accessibility, if these sensors can be applied into the in-vitro diagnostic applications such as CRISPR gene editing field this will really transform the healthcare industry.

Nowadays it is possible to design a simple biosensing technologies that are integrated in medical gadgets and used to monitor patient parameters without the need to skilled people or specialized space. These medical devices enabling easy access to healthcare information are used mainly for chronic disease (diabetes, heart rate, sleep apnea…), but what about infectious diseases, cancer diseases? What if researchers and clinicians can leverage the biology of the existing diagnostic assays (NGS, PCR) and merge them with electronics, will this bring such systems much faster to the market and can patients start really using them?

Source: CRISPR Technology & Market Overview: from Lab to Industry 2018 report, Yole Développement, 2019

In terms of nucleic acid detection, leveraging existing technologies and merge theme with electronics is a little bit challenging. The raison for that is existing assays such as NGS and PCR are difficult to bring on electronic systems, although problems such as portability, cost, speed, multiplexing can be addressed with electronic sensors, however scientists still have to deal with complex primer designs, some of amplification methodology require more than one enzyme, so they must make sure that assays are well developed and applicable for all enzymes. We believe that there still a lot of system complexity with current in-vitro diagnostic methods to bring biology into electronic devices. So how CRISPR can enable the design of a simple system to detect target genes using electronics?

Recently a team of engineers from the University of California, Berkeley has combined CRISPR with electronics made from graphene to create a new hand-held device that can detect specific genetic mutations in a few minutes. CRISPR is a two component system, the endonuclease Cas9 enzyme and the guide RNA. Together this complex can search for DNA, find its target and cut it to enable editing. The main advantage of CRISPR technology is the simplicity compared to other gene editing technologies and versatility which consist of the ability to reprogram the guide RNA to target specific genes. The challenging point here is how Berkeley institute can maintain the simplicity and harness the reprogramming capabilities of CRISPR and combine it with electronics?

In fact, at Yole, we believe that the semiconductors proprieties combined with the graphene to enhance the sensivity are the key enabler technology for the feasibility of CRISPR chip. The concept of this devices is based on changing the electric conduction proprieties of semiconductor chip when the DNA molecules adhere on the graphene surface. This result in a label free monitoring of CRISPR activity, because DNA is a charge molecule that affects the electrical propriety of silicon, so the simplicity of CRISPR can be preserved. From another side it is possible to make a millions of small graphene based transistors in a single chip allowing the versatility of CRISPR. Each of transistor can be uses to target a specified gene, and monitor different region in large gene using this multiplex system.

Yole has released “CRISPR Technology & Market Overview” report, in which the company analyzed how the $546M CRISPR market in 2017 will grow at a rate of 44% year-over-year, reaching $5B by 2023. Is it possible that the in-vitro diagnostic application of CRIPSR technology can drive the market growth?In our opinion CRISPR- chip holds the promise of multiplex testing, the device can allow doctors to simultaneously detect a number of genetic mutations in minutes thanks to graphene sensors which enable the introduction of multiple guide RNAs at once, and as a next step we can expect the use of CRIPSR-chip device as a quality control testing. We expect that more tests are to come at the crossroad of Cas9 and semiconductor tech.

In addition diagnostic is not the only application of CRISPR chip, it can be used to monitor CRISPR binding efficiency and test for the off-target effects. It also can monitor other types of CAS enzymes as several laboratories are developing different types of Cas- enzymes. In conclusion the combination of biology with electronics will for sure provide a unique information about biological molecules and biological events.

About the author

As a Technology & Market Analyst, Biotechnologies & Molecular Innovations, Medical Technologies in the Life Sciences & Healthcare division at Yole Développement (Yole), Asma Siari is involved in the development of technology & market reports as well as the production of custom consulting projects.
After a Master’s degree in Biotechnologies, Diagnostic Therapeutics & Management, Asma served as Research Assistant at the Moores Cancer Center (San Diego, CA).
She is a coauthor in three scientific publications published in the Molecular Cancer Research Journal.
Asma Siari graduated with an Advanced Master’s degree in International Strategy & Marketing BtoB from EM Lyon Business School (France).


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