Canadian Bioscience Firm Approved for Production of Rapid COVID-19 Testing
Sharna Jahangir posted on April 15, 2020 |
Spartan Cube delivers results in one hour, no lab needed.

Update May 6, 2020: Spartan has voluntarily recalled its COVID-19 test kits after the Canadian government expressed concern about the the efficacy of the proprietary swabs included in the kit, according to statement issued on the company site dated May 3.

The Ottawa-based Bioscience firm, Spartan Bioscience, has received approval from the Canadian government for production and distribution of the Spartan Cube, a rapid testing device for the COVID-19 virus. The company states that the device will deliver test results within an hour, making it one of the fastest tests currently available.  

Spartan Bioscience CEO Dr. Paul Lem tells CTV News how the device works: “You take a swab, take the tip of the swab into this cartridge and then put it  into this portable DNA analyzer. In less than an hour, you get your COVID-19 test results."

(Image courtesy of Spartan Bioscience.)
(Image courtesy of Spartan Bioscience.)

Currently it can take days or even weeks to receive test results. Hospitals and laboratories are backed up with tests. Rapid testing is needed. The Spartan Cube’s diagnostic platform is a CE IVD approved DNA analyzer. As it is a small and easy to use, it is ideal for non-technical hospital and medical staff.  There is no need for a laboratory.

The test is based on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method, the same method used by the CDC to detect COVID-19 DNA. 

In Canada, Ontario has the most COVID-19 cases with 7,900 with 334 deaths at the time of this writing. Ontario has purchased 900,000 testing kits. The province of Alberta is spending $9.5 million to produce 250 Spartan Cubes and 100,000 testing kits.

Front-line workers, residents of care homes are some of the most vulnerable segments and face some of the biggest risks for physical and mental health-related complications.

“They've told us that they're thinking it'll be used in smaller towns, smaller hospitals, remote communities," Lem said.  "So, it would probably be health-care professionals, so perhaps doctors, nurses medical technicians who will probably run the tests."

In the U.S., Canada and other countries, testing is a long process. Swabs must be sent to centers in large cities for testing, which leads to backlogs. Lem believes his device will help solve that problem.

“They have to send the results back to whoever ordered the test, so that's why it can take days or even over a week, to get the test results,” he said. “In contrast, with our portable COVID-19 DNA testing device, you're getting results right away.”

The company estimates that they can process 1.5 million tests per month. “We are massively ramping up our supply chain so that we'll be able to produce millions of tests every month," Lem said. "As we're able to meet Canada's demand, then we'll be in a position to help the rest of the world.”

Lem also suggests and believes that these tests can be used in public spaces and transitional spaces such as airports and border crossings if the initial release goes smoothly. Although, they have received Canada’s approval, provinces will have their own standards and procedures. For example, Alberta will still need to validate the accuracy of the machines before they can be used on a larger scale.

“Once these tests get approval, that doesn't mean we can just go get them off the shelf and put them in practice, they still have to go through some evaluation at the sites that they're going to actually be used,” said Dr. Marc Desjardins, the head of microbiology at the Eastern Ontario Regional Laboratory Association.

Major research facilities are on the verge of developing rapid testing devices including those in the U.S., Europe and South Korea. For example, Kogen Biotech in South Korea developed a rapid testing device which helped the nation flatten the curve. With the help of the device more than 300,000 people were tested at drive-in centers within a month. However, the Biotech’s device must have the result confirmed in a lab for Biotech.

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