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Guelph company shifts focus and creates a 60-minute COVID-19 test

The device is the brainchild of Precision Biomonitoring, a local company made up largely of University of Guelph graduates

Guelph-based Precision Biomonitoring has quickly changed its company focus and created a rapid COVID-19 test that reveals results in 60 minutes. 

Battery operated and weighing 1.2 kg, the mobile test was created to be used in point-of need locations where every second counts and sending results to a lab is just not practical.

“It’s very versatile. It’s basically taking the lab out of the lab. The way it works is we have a mobile on-site testing platform that fits in a briefcase,” says Precision Biomonitoring co-founder Mario Thomas.

Right now, the company is producing 6,000 individual test kits a week, which are manufactured in the United States. But given the need in Canada, the company expects to be manufacturing 40,000 test kits a week in Canada in June.

Thomas says the test has attracted international interest and already has a long waiting list of orders but his current priority is Canada. It is also awaiting Health Canada approval that Thomas expects to receive very soon. 

He says the ease and mobility of the test allow it to be used anywhere such as borders, emergency rooms, long-term care homes and assessment centres. It also has a wifi connection that allows results to be transferred to other locations. 

“We decided very quickly that it was our moral obligation to do this. We adapted the COVID-19 test on our side to a platform where a central lab is not sufficient and when results are needed now and you cannot wait four or five days for the result,” says Thomas. 

“With our platform, you can get the results anywhere on the spot whether it's Downtown Toronto or the north of Ontario. We can deploy the results anywhere.”

Initially, the company manufactured rapid tests for environmental monitoring, a test that would allow them to detect living species in small bodies of water such as ponds, lakes and rivers.

Last year the company also created a test for the Canadian Food Inspection where they were able to detect microbes in food and detect animal viruses to enhance food safety. 

When coronavirus concerns began to rise, the company looked into creating a COVID-19 test and shifted its focus to help the community during the crisis. 

“It’s kind of crazy right to morph into a healthcare company?” laughs Thomas adding that it is all due to his committed team which is largely composed of graduates from the University of Guelph. 

“They are very determined. They are persistent and we get things done,” says Thomas. 

Thomas says the test is very simple and requires a DNA swab from the person tested. The swab is then run on an instrument that analyzes genetic material where a positive or negative COVID-19 result is revealed in an hour. 

“The performance of this is as good as any central lab testing,” says Thomas. 

After being contacted by First Nation departments who were operating with limited capacity, Precision Biomonitoring partnered with Guelph based Shared Value Solutions last month to address the rising number of cases in First Nations and Inuit communities which not too long ago was confirmed by Indigenous Services Canada (ISC),

“It's important for me because I think to be of service is a privilege,” says Thomas. 

“We have a tool here that is unique and can help in this moment of crisis so we cannot hesitate to make a decision.” says Thomas. 

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Anam Khan

About the Author: Anam Khan

Anam Khan is a journalist who covers numerous beats in Guelph and Wellington County that include politics, crime, features, environment and social justice
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