One of the biggest concerns worldwide continues to revolve around the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the potential of being exposed to the virus. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the transmission of the virus can pass rapidly from one person to another and while there are social distancing guidelines in every country, carriers of the virus may not show symptoms for days or even be asymptomatic. Therefore, the sooner the virus can be detected, the better it will be for the health and safety of every person in each given community.
The National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) has granted $299,190 of COVID-19 funding support to biotechnology company Nicoya towards developing portable, smartphone-integrated COVID-19 diagnostic tests.
To aid in the prevention of COVID-19 by aiming to detect the virus in its earliest stages, the Kitchener-based company Nicoya, a biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry leader, is using the funding to research and develop easy-to-use saliva-based tests known as Atlas, which will identify COVID-19 infections in less than 20 minutes. The $299,190 government funding comes as part of a collaborative initiative distributed by the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) through the Innovative Solutions Canada (ISC) program.
Research and Development of Accessible COVID-19 Tests
Atlas COVID-19 tests being developed by Nicoya will be portable, low-cost, and powered by smartphone integration to allow for early detection of the virus to be more timely, efficient, and cost-effective for healthcare workers as well as for the general public. The tests will be self-administered by a saliva sample, much simpler than the common clinical nasopharyngeal swab samples. Atlas will be a disposable, single-use application that will identify active SARS-CoV-2 viral proteins to detect a present coronavirus infection.
“There is an urgent need for diagnostic kits that can provide users with immediate results, rather than having to rely on testing labs that can take two to five days. Atlas will fill an important void in the current testing space, as a portable COVID-19 test that can fit seamlessly into economic re-opening strategies.”
– Ryan Denomme, co-founder and CEO of Nicoya.
With government funding support from NRC-IRAP, the Atlas prototype is currently in development at Nicoya and they hope to have the prototype ready for public use as soon as possible to help accelerate the fight against the spread of COVID-19.
“With this funding and support, we have the opportunity to expedite research and development of Atlas,” Denomme explains.
COVID-19 Government Funding for Canadian Businesses
The NRC-IRAP COVID-19 funding program concentrates on supporting Canadian SMEs by offering government grants towards the research and development of innovative, alternative solutions such as masks, equipment, and tests to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
IRAP Research Grants offer contributions of up to 60-80% of technical labour and subcontractor costs to assist with the research and development of advanced solutions including innovative approaches to products, processes, and/or services.