Spartan Bioscience, a Canadian biotechnology company has just been given the green light from Health Canada to produce a portable test kit for COVID-19. The company announced plans to begin shipping the tests out to "federal and provincial government partners starting immediately," according to a press release on their website.
CEO Paul Lem, said that the government has already been working alongside with Spartan Bioscience in order to "expedite the review and approval process" for test kits.
“We are ready to start shipping our portable COVID-19 test to the federal and provincial governments, and to make them widely available to Canadians,” wrote Lem in the statement.
“There is an urgent unmet need for rapid COVID-19 testing, and as a proudly Canadian company, we are excited that our technology will be an important part of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada,” continued Lem.
It's called the Spartan Cube, and it comes with a DNA analyzer and test cartridges and swabs. The rapid test kits are about the size of a shaving kit and easy to transport. Spartan Bioscience is confident that the tests can be carried out by "non-laboratory personnel" and can be done anywhere such as airports or remote areas.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have published designs for a test which has an accuracy rate of 100 percent and the Spartan Cube is an identical test to that.
The innovation is will help where it is much needed, as in remote communities. The Spartan Cube will allow for more widespread testing which will help Canada to safely re-open borders that are currently closed as a result of the pandemic.
“Imagine quarantining people for as long as it takes for someone to pick up their luggage at an airport, where it’s either yes or no,” said Colin Furness, infection, control epidemiologist in an interview with Global News.
“The general idea of trying to scale up capacity through rapid testing is an excellent thing."
The Spartan Cube's test results can come back in under an hour, according to Alberta Health Services. The provincial governments of Alberta and Ontario have been asking Spartan Bioscience to do everything they can to scale up their testing capacities.
Spartan Bioscience has signed a $9.5 million dollar contract with Alberta Health Services for 100,000 testing kits and 250 handheld devices which it intends to bring to its rural areas. Premier Ford announced that his provincial government also bought over 900,000 testing kits.
The current method for testing involves a nasopharyngeal swab that must be inserted up the nostril before being sent to a public lab or hospital when it can be processed in a machine that tests for polymerase chain reactions.
Many tests are currently backlogged due to a lack of testing chemicals, swabs and space which has resulted in public health officials having to make difficult choices as to who should get tested.