At the beginning of the pandemic, thousands of cases were developing in Canada each day. Rapid identification of cases was, and still is, paramount to stopping the spread of the virus as it allows for patients to be isolated (at home or in hospital) to prevent further transmission. However, during the early stages of COVID-19, rapid testing was extremely limited and turn-around-time (TAT) could be as long as five days. This is where Precision Biomonitoring comes in:
Precision Biomonitoring offers point-of-need DNA tools and services for the identification of target organisms in aquatic and terrestrial environments. In February of 2020, they decided to adapt their technology to make COVID-19 point-of-care testing kits. This rapid point-of-care test can reliably identify cases and be used by health care providers with minimal training and no biosafety risk.
Sunnybrook Health Sciences lab team worked closely with the company to validate the solution both in a laboratory and clinical setting. In addition, the Research Institute of St. Joe’s Hamilton worked directly with Precision Biomonitoring to support bringing rapid testing to Canada.
The company has already announced that it will be bringing its rapid mobile detection device to Indigenous communities in northern Ontario, in response to COVID-19. The current time it takes to get results back in a typical First Nation is a week to 10 days; with this point-of-care test, they could obtain results as quickly as one hour, enabling health care providers to make timely and optimal treatment decisions.
The project was unique for the CAN Health Network, as the Network typically works with companies who have later stage products and are not waiting on regulatory approval. However, as a result of the pandemic, the Network saw the potential to help a Canadian company respond and support testing.