Spartan Bioscience gets Health Canada approval for rapid COVID-19 test

Paul Lem
Paul Lem is the founder and CEO of Spartan Bioscience. (Ottawa Business Journal photo by Mark Holleron)

An Ottawa-based biotech firm says Health Canada has given it the go-ahead to start shipping its rapid COVID-19 testing technology.

Spartan Bioscience says its test can detect the novel coronavirus in as little as half an hour. The federal government as well as the provinces of Ontario and Alberta have already agreed to buy millions of dollars’ worth of testing devices and kits, and Spartan CEO Paul Lem recently told OBJ the company is in talks with other provincial governments to roll out the company’s equipment across Canada.

“There is an urgent unmet need for rapid COVID-19 testing, and as a proudly Canadian company, we are excited that our technology will be an important part of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada,” Spartan CEO Paul Lem said in a statement Monday morning.

The company said its technology is ready to be delivered to health-care facilities “starting immediately.”

Spartan’s test involves inserting a cartridge containing a swab from a patient’s mouth into a machine about the size of a coffee cup that analyzes DNA for the presence of the coronavirus. The handheld device, known as the Spartan Cube, can be deployed anywhere from doctors’ offices, pharmacies and community centres to airports, cruise ships and border crossings.

Lem told OBJ earlier this month the company has been getting requests for the equipment from all over the world, adding he ultimately hopes to manufacture several thousand machines and millions of testing cartridges over the next year. 

That will take millions of dollars in additional capital, but Lem said he’s close to raising a “significant amount of funding” from private investors.