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Alumnus company wins backing for COVID testing kit

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

A biotechnology company co-founded by a Waterloo Engineering alumnus has been awarded almost $300,000 in government funding to develop a portable diagnostic test for COVID-19.

Nicoya, a Kitchener-based provider of advanced analytical instruments for the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, grew out of a Capstone Design project by nanotechnology engineering student Ryan Denomme (BASc ’10, MASc ’12).

The funding is part of a challenge issued by the Public Health Agency of Canada and the National Research Council of Canada.

Nicoya is developing a saliva-based test called Atlas to detect COVID-19 infection in less than 20 minutes.

'Urgent need for diagnostic test kits'

“Accessibility continues to be a large barrier in achieving population testing goals,” Denomme said in a media release this week. “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.”

A single-use, disposable device, Atlas is being developed to detect infection by testing for viral proteins and use smartphone technology to quickly deliver lab-quality results.

Nicoya is one of four winners from across Canada in the first phase of the Point of Care and Home Diagnostic Kit Challenge.

Ryan Denomme will be a speaker in our upcoming WIN Entrepreneurship Series: Panel discussion on Business of Research Equipment on July 6th.

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