Nicoya receives NRC IRAP funding to develop saliva-based diagnostic test for COVID-19

Nicoya, a leading provider of advanced analytical instruments for the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, will receive advisory services and up to $299,190 in research and development funding from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) to develop a portable COVID-19 diagnostic test called Atlas. This funding comes as part of a joint challenge issued by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) through the Innovative Solutions Canada (ISC) program. The saliva-based test will be able to detect COVID-19 infection in less than 20 minutes, with an easy-to-use device that can be employed in a variety of settings.

Accessibility continues to be a large barrier in achieving population testing goals. There is an urgent need for diagnostic kits that can provide users with immediate results, rather than having to rely on testing labs that can take two to five days. Delays increase the possibility of infected people spreading the virus further, or uninfected people facing unnecessary quarantine. Atlas will fill an important void in the current testing space, as a portable COVID-19 test that can fit seamlessly into economic re-opening strategies.”

Ryan Denomme, Co-founder and CEO of Nicoya

Atlas will be a single-use, disposable device that will detect active infection by testing for SARS-CoV-2 viral proteins. To make the test as accessible as possible, Nicoya is powering it with smartphone technology so that it can deliver lab-quality results to an app in under 20 minutes. The test will be performed with a saliva sample, rather than the more common nasopharyngeal swab samples. With Atlas, Nicoya hopes to make testing more available everywhere, from remote communities to front-line screening procedures.

According to the World Health Organization, diagnostic testing for COVID-19 is critical to tracking the virus, understanding its epidemiology, informing case management and suppressing transmission. The NRC IRAP-ISC COVID-19 Challenge Program is expediting solutions for rapid testing in decentralized and point-of-care settings.

Our government is mobilizing resources to combat COVID-19 and I’m proud that Nicoya was one of four Phase I funding recipients of the Point-of-Care Diagnostic Test Kit Challenge. Nicoya is an exemplary company already working hard on pioneering innovative research and finding solutions together, and this approach is a pillar to ensuring we have both short and long-term solutions to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Raj Saini, Member of Parliament for Kitchener Centre

In keeping with their mission to improve human life, Nicoya’s biosensor solutions have been enabling advanced scientific research for years. The Nicoya team is now leveraging its deep expertise in areas such as nanotechnology, microfluidics and biochemistry to develop Atlas as a viable solution for containing COVID-19 and preventing the spread of future viral diseases.

The development of an Atlas prototype is currently underway for Nicoya. “With this funding and support, we have the opportunity to expedite research and development of Atlas, and we’re working extremely hard to bring it to the public as quickly as possible,” Denomme explained.

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