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Fast, high-volume COVID-19 test developed by prairie medical firm shows promise

A company founded in Saskatchewan has developed a new way of testing for the COVID-19 virus, called COVID-seq, which its creators believe will go a long way in stopping this, and future, pandemics.

COVID-seq modifies standard DNA sequencing methods to identify pathogens like COVID-19, and it’s allowing the company Bio-ID Diagnostics Inc. to run a higher volume of tests that are producing more accurate results in diagnosing the virus, as reported by CTV News.

“This will allow scientists to not only track the origins of diseases or outbreaks, it will also enable them to diagnose and start some sort of mediation, like vaccine development, much quicker,” said Dr. Reno Pontarollo (BSc'89, PhD'96) with Bio-ID Diagnostics.

According to the company, which has a lab in Greensboro, North Carolina and is now headquartered in Edmonton, their method of testing gives a more accurate and quicker diagnosis than current methods of testing, and would eliminate the need for the term “presumptive cases."

“Because it actually measures the DNA of the sample against the DNA of the pathogen, in this case COVID-19 is the primary target, you get an exact match,” said Dr. Jerome Konecsni (BA'74, MA'76, BEd'77) with the Johnson Shoyama School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan. “It is confirmed all in one shot.”


Pontarollo says COVID-seq would also help deal with what he says has caused much of the spread of the virus: contact with asymptomatic people.

“The sensitivity of it is so high, that you can actually diagnose people when they just have the virus and are not exhibiting any symptoms yet,” he said.

Dr. Konecsni believes COVID-seq would also aid in the process of re-opening businesses in Saskatchewan, and helping life transition back to normal.

“People could be tested regularly, in high volume,” he said. “So if you have 100 people working in your facility, they could all bring their samples in and all be tested, and in 24 hours get the results and know that it’s accurate.”

“To give people confidence when they go back to work, to protect our healthcare workers and frontline workers, and I think in the future, how do we better protect people.”

Bio-ID Diagnostics says COVID-seq is in the process of getting approval from Health Canada, and could change the way we approach diseases and viruses in the future.

“They don’t even have to be respiratory diseases,” said Dr. Pontorollo. “You can actually use it as a way to pre-monitor potential pandemics in a very cost-effective way.”

Full article and video published at https://saskatoon.ctvnews.ca.

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