Nova Scotia company waiting on Health Canada approval for rapid antigen test for COVID-19
HALIFAX -- The Sona Nanotech lab in Dartmouth, N.S., is making history by developing a rapid antigen test for COVID-19.
"There was a moment of tremendous pride for the entire team, as Canadians, when our evaluation results came back from both third-party laboratories and in-field trials and it showed how strongly our test performed," said CEO David Regan.
Here's a simple breakdown of how the test works: After a nasal pharyngeal swab is administered, the swab is placed in a tube of solution for a few moments. Then, a sample of that is placed on a lateral flow test, like a pregnancy test. The results appear within 15 minutes.
"The Sona Nanotech test is like a pregnancy test. It's a lateral flow test and those pregnancy tests detect the existence of a hormone. Our test detects the presence of the coronavirus," said Regan.
Sona Nanotech is the only company in Canada to come up with this technology.
"The four antigen tests that have been approved in the U.S. so far are from billion-dollar companies, multi-billion-dollar companies, with vast resources," said Regan.
"This test at Sona Nanotech has been developed in the lab, here at the bays in Dartmouth, based on research that was started at St. Francis Xavier University in the chemistry lab there and brought to fruition over the last nine months."
Regan says the test could help triage people faster and free up the health-care system.
"A rapid test for COVID would be a great idea," said Dr. Todd Hatchette, the chief of microbiology with the Nova Scotia Health Authority. "Having the ability to provide results within 15 or 20 minutes can be helpful in many different situations. But again, it comes back to primary concern -- are these tests accurate and are they sensitive to pick up the infection?
Regan says it is.
"This is a screening device that can be used widespread to pick up not only the virus of those people that have symptoms but importantly, before people have symptoms," he said. "At that stage, positives can be sent to the labs for confirmation but that will be result in much shorter turnaround times."
Right now, it's a waiting game for the lab as it seeks approval from Health Canada.
In the meantime, the company is also working on a saliva at-home test, which is considered in the early stages of development.