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Guelph company close to bringing 15 minute saliva-based COVID test to market

Company says the test, not yet been approved by Health Canada, is similar to a pregnancy test: portable, disposable and affordable with almost instant results
20200918PrecisionBiomonitoring
A mock up image of the COVID-19 digital antigen rapid saliva test. Supplied photo

A Guelph company says it has created a 15-minute COVID-19 test they hope to launch in January by the millions. 

With the COVID-19 digital antigen rapid saliva test, individuals can simply spit in a device and wait 15 minutes for their results, says its creator, Precision Biomonitoring of Guelph.

Company co-founder Mario Thomas says the COVID-19 digital antigen rapid saliva test is similar to a pregnancy test in that it is portable, disposable, affordable and offers results almost instantly. It also eliminates the discomfort of an eight-inch Q-tip shoved up your nose to test for COVID-19. 

“It’s very different. It’s smaller, without any instruments, it’s faster and is based for the workplace or home use. It’s very easy to use,” said Thomas about the novel rapid testing solution that uses a multi-spectral microsensor to detect small amounts of antigen in saliva by digitally capturing fluorescent signals in the UV spectrum.

Results are shared digitally through an app via Bluetooth technology. 

Precision Biomonitoring is currently working to get Health Canada approval but expects the test will be available in January, Thomas said.

They’re also working on developing their manufacturing process as they expect to manufacture millions of tests across Canada.

The COVID-19 digital antigen rapid saliva test is Precision Biomonitoring’s second COVID-19 test. The first one was a 60-minute battery-operated mobile test which was created for point-of-need locations, required a nasal swab and could only be conducted by a medical professional. 

The creation of the test was expediated as the company entered the XPRIZE global rapid testing competition held by non-profit organization XPRIZE which provides resources for innovators to pool their intelligence in different fields.

Currently, Precision Monitoring is one of 200 semi-finalists in the competition which saw over 900 applicants globally wanting to create a COVID-19 test. 

“This is really for us, a validation of the quality of our innovation,” said Thomas.  “We have a new test that can really help in this second wave and beyond with COVID-19.”

Thomas said he first launched the test as a student project in May and saw some incredible advancements. The team behind the test is mainly comprised of University of Guelph graduates and co-op students. 

The test can also be readjusted to detect other viruses such as influenza, salmonella or HIV by just changing a strip in the device.

“The basic technology that we developed is the same,” said Thomas. 

The 15-minute test was created to increase the ease and accessibility of COVID-19 testing more so than the company’s previous 60-minute test which uses external equipment.

“Even if we don’t win (the competition). We will have won something big which is time. We will have accelerated our project and we will have conducted the clinical validation of our test and be able to submit it to Health Canada much faster,” said Thomas. 

“Nobody knows what will happen next year but just looking at the shape of the biological curves, it’s going to be with us throughout next year for sure,” said Thomas.

“We need to adjust to this new reality that it’s going to be with us for a long time.”

Precision Biomonitoring has been selling approximately 8,000 of its 60-minute tests per week across Canada since it launched the test in July, he said.

“We are forecasting for the new one to sell a million a month, not only in Canada but globally,” said Thomas. 

He said creating such technology has always been a passion of his as he dedicated his life to innovation. 

“What I like in innovation is to see where we make a difference, to be a part of the change in the world,” said Thomas. 

“When I see that people are using our products and its helping and it’s making a difference, this is where the real satisfaction is.”




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