Nova Scotia

Halifax-made blood testing device heading to International Space Station

A Halifax medical technology company that believes it has discovered the holy grail in rapid diagnostic blood testing is getting nearly $3 million from the government of Canada.

Pinprick of blood produces rapid test results from hand-held device

Alentic Microsciences has patented a hand-held device that can analyze a tiny amount of blood, producing a complete blood count almost immediately. (Submitted by Alentic Microscience Inc.)

A Halifax medical technology company that believes it has discovered the holy grail in rapid diagnostic blood testing is getting nearly $3 million from the federal government.

Led by Dalhousie University neuroscientist and founder Alan Fine, Alentic Microsciences has patented a hand-held device that can analyze a tiny amount of blood, producing test results on the spot almost immediately.

"It is going to produce health-care benefits for the public at large. It is going to lower the costs of delivery of health care," Fine told CBC News Monday, after the company received a $2.92-million loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

The portable analyzer can generate test results from any location in five minutes using only a drop of blood from a pinprick.

The information from that drop of blood would be enough for a complete blood count, a test used by medical professionals to diagnose a patient's overall health.

Heading to space station

The Canadian Space Agency chose the Alentic device to test astronauts aboard the International Space Station next month.

Halifax Liberal MP Andy Fillmore referred to its upcoming use in space when announcing the ACOA contribution Monday.

"The Government of Canada is providing nearly $3 million to Alentic to bring that technology back to earth and spread it around the globe," Fillmore said.

The announcement was made at the BioNova Centre at Dalhousie University.

Alan Fine with his blood testing device. Fine is a neuroscientist at Dalhousie University and the founder of Alentic Microsciences. (Paul Withers/CBC)

Alentic is one of several startups with offices in the complex.

The ACOA loan will enable it to hire six more people, including a bioengineer and software developer. Alentic currently employs 15 people.

Fine said the company needs every cent it can to bring its technology to commercialization.

"It's horrifying how much money one has to spend to build a company like this. We are constantly in search of new money to allow us to continue," he said.

Team effort

Alentic plans to start selling its devices within a year.

Fine credits Dalhousie colleagues in computer sciences, physics and medicine for helping the company get to the brink of commercialization.

"A device like the one that we're putting together, although it's very small it's remarkably complex and getting it to work properly involves a combination of many technologies. It requires very sophisticated computational skills. It requires chemistry, it requires some very advanced mechanical engineering. There are so many pieces to the puzzle," Fine said.

Scott Moffitt, executive director of BioNova — which promotes Nova Scotia's life sciences sector — is not surprised to hear Fine credit the Dalhousie community.

​"These companies will not succeed on their own operating in a silo. We need to have that collaborative environment between universities and companies and industry and government. Everyone needs to be at the table for these companies to ultimately succeed," Moffitt said.

"Alentic is still a relatively young company but they are very representative of the kinds of companies that we have here in the province."

About the Author

Paul Withers

Reporter

Paul Withers is an award-winning journalist whose career started in the 1970s as a cartoonist. He has been covering Nova Scotia politics for more than 20 years.

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