Alberta invests $9.5 million in rapid COVID-19 testing
April 1, 2020
EDMONTON – Albertans will soon have faster, more convenient access to COVID-19 testing through a new partnership between Alberta Health Services (AHS) and a Canadian technology company. Spartan Bioscience Inc. is in the late stages of developing an innovative handheld, rapid-testing device for COVID-19, which can confirm test results for the virus in less than one hour.
The technology is expected to help AHS provide additional, more expedient testing for COVID-19 in rural and remote communities, such as Indigenous communities, by eliminating the need for lab samples to travel to the nearest lab, which can be a logistical challenge.
As part of the $9.5-million contract, AHS will receive 250 handheld devices, along with 100,000 testing kits, to be distributed to healthcare facilities outside of Calgary and Edmonton. The first shipment of devices and testing kits arrives next month.
Health Canada is expected to approve the use of the rapid test kits within a few weeks. AHS will validate test protocols and accuracy before the new technology is deployed, but has acted quickly to ensure the test kits are available in the province once approval is received.
“Alberta has been one of the fastest jurisdictions in the world for testing of COVID-19. However, the threat to the health of all Albertans remains. We have recognized a gap in our testing and I am pleased AHS is working swiftly with industry to find ways to ensure rapid testing for the virus is accessible for people in rural and remote communities,” says Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health.
“This investment will ensure we can maintain our rapid pace in testing and alleviate pressures on our front-line workers with quick result confirmations.”
The technology will be used in addition to AHS’ current lab testing and will be augmented in areas where access to major labs can be an issue.
“COVID-19 places significantly increased demand on our lab capacity,” says AHS president and CEO Dr. Verna Yiu. “This new technology will supplement our current testing efforts and give AHS the ability to provide timely testing and results to more Albertans in more communities. This will help guide appropriate care and isolation, speed up our contact tracing, and reduce the risk of further spread.”
“Alberta has led the way nationally, and internationally, when it comes to testing for COVID-19. We have one of the highest rates of testing per capita than almost anywhere in the world,” adds Dr. Carolyn O’Hara, interim chief medical laboratory officer for Alberta Precision Laboratories (APL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of AHS.
“In addition, Alberta was the first province in Canada to have an online assessment tool which helps determine whether someone should be tested for COVID-19. This partnership with Spartan Bioscience is yet another example of AHS working proactively to respond to the global COVID-19 pandemic, and protect Albertans.”
Spartan Bioscience specializes in DNA detection technology.
“Spartan is honoured to partner with the Province of Alberta and Alberta Health Services in the COVID-19 response,” says Dr. Paul Lem, CEO of Spartan Bioscience Inc. “We think portable, rapid COVID-19 molecular testing will be important to help stop the pandemic. It is gratifying to see a made-in-Canada solution helping Canadians and is critical to Canada’s response.”