Scalable, Easy-to-Deploy Protocol for Cas13-Based Virus Detection

Current methods for detecting diseases struggle to meet the global demand for widespread testing. The techniques require testing materials such as RPA kits and lateral flow sticks that are both expensive and limited in availability. In addition, current approaches often mandate special instrumentation and trained personnel for sample processing, which requires patient samples to be sent to a centralized laboratory or hospital which further delays patient feedback. These factors narrow down the scalability and ease of providing patient diagnoses at a time where disease detection is critical in the fight against global pandemics.


Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara have developed a Cas13-based, rugged, equitable, scalable testing (CREST) method capable of detecting virus-specific (e.g. SARS-CoV-2) genetic material that takes advantage of robust CRISPR-based nucleic acid detection coupled with low-cost, easy-to-use thermocyclers and fluorescent visualizers. CREST replaces expensive reagents with Taq polymerase, which is readily accessible, stable at room temperature, and further reduces costs. In addition, CREST is also equal in sensitivity to more conventional point-of-reference RT-qPCR-based techniques. These advantages allow CREST to overcome current testing limitations, bypass the need for highly trained personnel, and allow testing to be easily deployed at sites with minimal infrastructure. Thus, CREST provides a simplified, low-cost solution capable of addressing the current global demand for disease testing.

Commercial Advantages

Increased testing accessibility

Reduced costs


Reduces the need for highly trained personnel, dedicated laboratory space, and special instrumentation


COVID-19 Testing

Animal and plant pathogen detection

Disease detection

Gene expression (mRNA presence and levels), gene variant (mRNA polymorphisms, splice variants), translocation (fusion transcripts) detection


US National Library of Medicine & National Institutes of Health

Can CRISPR/Cas Technology Be a Felicitous Stratagem Against the COVID-19 Fiasco? Prospects and Hitches

US National Library of Medicine & National Institutes of Health

Next-Generation Molecular Diagnostics Development by CRISPR/Cas Tool: Rapid Detection and Surveillance of Viral Disease Outbreaks

American society for Microbiology: Journal of Clinical Microbiology

A Fast and Accessible Method for the Isolation of RNA, DNA, and Protein to Facilitate the Detection of SARS-CoV-2

American society for Microbiology: Journal of Clinical Microbiology

A Scalable, Easy-to-Deploy, Protocol for Cas13-Based Detection of SARS-CoV-2 Genetic Material

JAMA Network

Comparison of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 Screening Using Reverse Transcriptase–Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction or CRISPR-Based Assays in Asymptomatic College Students

The CRISPR Journal, VOL. 3, No. 3

Open Sharing During COVID-19: CRISPR-Based Detection Tools