Alberta Health Services buys rapid testing devices for COVID-19 from Ottawa tech firm

Alberta Health Services has signed a $9.5-million contract with an Ottawa company developing a handheld rapid-testing device for COVID-19.

Spartan Bioscience developing handheld device that can confirm test results in less than an hour

Spartan Bioscience of Ottawa is in the late stages of developing a rapid-testing device for COVID-19. (Spartan Bioscience)

Alberta Health Services has announced a $9.5-million contract with an Ottawa tech company developing a handheld rapid-testing device for COVID-19 that can confirm test results in less than one hour.

The technology being developed by Spartan Bioscience Inc. is expected to help AHS provide more and quicker testing in Indigenous and other rural communities by eliminating the need for test samples to travel to the nearest lab, AHS said in a news release Monday.

As part of the contract, AHS will receive 250 handheld devices and 100,000 testing kits to be distributed to health-care facilities outside of Calgary and Edmonton.

The product is in the late stages of development and Health Canada is expected to approve the use of the kits within a few weeks, the release said.

The first shipment of devices and testing kits will arrive in April, AHS said.

AHS will validate test protocols and accuracy before using the devices, "but has acted quickly to ensure the test kits are available in the province once approval is received," it said in the release.

In the release, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Alberta has been one of the fastest jurisdictions in the world for testing of COVID-19.

"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," Shandro said.

Rapid confirmation of test results will help relieve pressure on front-line workers, he said.

AHS CEO Dr. Verna Yiu said the new technology will help guide appropriate care and isolation, speed up contact tracing and reduce the risk of further spread of the novel coronavirus.

Spartan Bioscience specializes in DNA detection technology.