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Nova Scotia life sciences company working on new rapid screening test for COVID-19

Sona Nanotech CEO Dr. Darren Rowles says their product should help triage patients by determining if someone is potentially positive or negative for coronavirus much faster than existing tests
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(stock photo)

Researchers at a Nova Scotia based life sciences company are working around the clock to develop a new screening test for COVID-19 that would provide results considerably faster than the existing tests.

Sona Nanotech Dr. Darren Rowles says they should be able to get individual results within five to fifteen minutes. He's telling Global News this will be a huge advancement, if they can cut down the time to less than a quarter hour from the current timelines that range from four, six, ten, to 24 hours.

He says historically, an issue with lateral flow tests like the one they are developing is it's not as sensitive as molecular tests like those approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We've been able to kind of bring that sensitivity level down even further, on some occasions even down to picogram levels, which is down to levels of molecular tests," explains Dr. Rowles.

He says these lateral flow test results will need to be confirmed, but their product should help triage patients by determining if someone is potentially positive or negative for coronavirus. "By triaging people in that way, that's a very, very good and established method to be able to help contain any spread or future contamination," says Dr. Rowles.

He says their new partnership with General Electric is evidence the entire global scientific community is working in a collaborative fashion to try to contain COVID-19.

"We recently signed a collaboration agreement with a team in GE (General Electric) and their lab in Germany is poised to receive materials from us, and start a program of work which will cut our workload here by a good third," says Dr. Rowles.

He says discussions are already underway with the American Food and Drug Administration to fast track authorization when the tests are market ready.

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