Rational Design of CRISPR/Cas12a-RPA Based One-Pot COVID-19 Detection with Design of Experiments

Koray Malcı, Laura E. Walls, Leonardo Rios-solis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Simple and effective molecular diagnostic methods have gained importance due to the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Various isothermal one-pot COVID-19 detection methods have been proposed as favorable alternatives to standard RT-qPCR methods as they do not require sophisticated and/or expensive devices. However, as one-pot reactions are highly complex with a large number of variables, determining the optimum conditions to maximize sensitivity while minimizing diagnostic cost can be cumbersome. Here, statistical design of experiments (DoE) was employed to accelerate the development and optimization of a CRISPR/Cas12a-RPA-based one-pot detection method for the first time. Using a definitive screening design, factors with a significant effect on performance were elucidated and optimized, facilitating the detection of two copies/μL of full-length SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) genome using simple instrumentation. The screening revealed that the addition of a reverse transcription buffer and an RNase inhibitor, components generally omitted in one-pot reactions, improved performance significantly, and optimization of reverse transcription had a critical impact on the method’s sensitivity. This strategic method was also applied in a second approach involving a DNA sequence of the N gene from the COVID-19 genome. The slight differences in optimal conditions for the methods using RNA and DNA templates highlight the importance of reaction-specific optimization in ensuring robust and efficient diagnostic performance. The proposed detection method is automation-compatible, rendering it suitable for high-throughput testing. This study demonstrated the benefits of DoE for the optimization of complex one-pot molecular diagnostics methods to increase detection sensitivity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1555-1567
JournalACS Synthetic Biology
Issue number4
Early online date1 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2022


  • one-pot COVID-19 testing
  • CRISPR/Cas12a
  • molecular diagnosis
  • definitive screening design
  • reaction optimization
  • recombinase polymerase amplification (RPA)


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