Canadian company develops palm size test to detect COVID-19 in 20 minutes

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TORONTO –
An Ontario company says it is developing a new saliva-based test for COVID-19 that will fit in the palm of your hand and be able to detect if someone is infected with the virus in 20 minutes.

The test, which is currently in its research phase, is an original idea from Deep Biologics, a Guelph, Ontario company. The federal government recently awarded $ 300,000 to the company through the National Resource Council of Canada (NRC) in hopes of making this idea a reality.

Dea Shahinas, CEO of Deep Biologics, said that with the funding, her company will be ready to begin clinical testing of samples within the next three months.

“The methods we are developing are new and they are based on saliva. Saliva testing is more convenient in rural areas and for point-of-care devices, which is the goal of this project, “she told CTV News Channel on Tuesday.

Currently being tested for COVID-19 in Canada means having a long swab inserted into the back of a patient’s throat or through the nose. The samples are then taken to a laboratory for testing, and the results usually take a few days.

This new diagnostic test, once developed, would be completely self-contained, which means it would not need to be brought to a laboratory. Instead, anyone tested could find out their status on the spot – a convenience factor that could have practical applications for airports, schools, and workplaces.

“The detector is the size of someone’s hand,” said Shahinas. “It is independent, autonomous and disposable chips are inserted and it reports the results. “

In collaboration with a team from Queen’s University, Deep Biologics is seeking to build on previous research that has revealed that the pathogen contained in COVID-19 can be detected from saliva samples.

NRC is investing nearly $ 1.2 million in four Canadian companies, including Deep Biologics, which are developing similar tests. All companies are working on different tests that would use saliva samples and could determine the results in 20 minutes or less.

If successful, each of these companies could receive up to $ 2 million to develop prototypes of their possible solutions.

“Canada needs different types of tests to meet the volume and capacity requirements to diagnose those infected and understand the spread of COVID-19,” said NRC in a statement.

The speed with which the Deep Biologics team creates the diagnostic test and makes it easily accessible to the public depends on several factors, including manufacturing capabilities and Health Canada approvals. But Shahinas said she expects a year to be enough.

“It should be possible given the current acceleration of different organizations, but at this point we don’t know. “

Health Canada recently approved an Italian-made antibody test that can determine if a person has anti-virus proteins in their blood that are created after a person has been exposed to COVID-19. Doctors agree that antibodies confer some immunity to the virus, but it is not known how long this protection lasts.

A group of Toronto researchers announced Monday that they are testing the blood of more than 10,000 Canadians for antibodies to find out more about immunity and how many asymptomatic people may have contracted the virus.

With files from Alexandra Mae Jones of CTVNews.ca

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