Two gloved hands hold the Hyris bCUBE
The Hyris bCUBE

With coronavirus testing demands rising under a second wave of COVID-19 infection in Canada, a portable SARS-CoV-2 test kit based on University of Guelph research has been approved by Health Canada for easy and rapid point-of-care use in workplaces and other public areas.

Approved for use last week by the federal agency, the Hyris bCUBE handheld device is the first portable system approved as a point-of-care instrument in Canada for screening for the pandemic-causing virus.

Based on a genetic RNA analysis from a nasal swab or surface swipe, the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) technology provides results that are 95-per-cent accurate within 90 minutes, making it ideal for use in offices, airports, schools, manufacturing plants and health-care settings, said Prof. Steve Newmaster, Department of Integrative Biology.

The Hyris bCUBE provides a portable front-line alternative to lengthy testing lineups and delays in public testing facilities, he said, adding that anyone testing positive for the virus should still verify results with a doctor or clinic. The technology can also be used to sample high-touch and high-traffic surfaces such as doorknobs and shopping carts.

“This technology can be used where we live, where we work, where we play, even in gyms, anywhere where there are concerns someone has the virus and is at risk of contaminating or inoculating other people.”

Distributed by Songbird Life Science Inc., a company formed this past summer by RWDI and Purity-IQ, the device will be sold to companies and organizations. Newmaster, a science adviser to Songbird, said the company has already fielded inquiries from companies in various industries.

Prof. Steve Newmaster
Prof. Steve Newmaster

The bCUBE is made by Hyris Global Diagnostics in Italy. The technology has already been in use for testing food and natural health products; the company adapted it for viral screening.

Newmaster said the device is sensitive and specific enough to differentiate between strains of coronaviruses, meaning potentially fewer false positive results for COVID-19. This testing might also help reduce false positives from presence of a flu virus rather than a coronavirus.

“Flu season is coming, and people are going to be worried they have COVID-19,” he said. “Testing is going to be bogged down in clinical labs. This bCUBE will provide an alternative in a workplace or in other areas.”

Newmaster said approval for use of the technology in the United States may come as soon as October, following ongoing assessment by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

RWDI is an engineering and building science firm with expertise in building ventilation. Genomics specialists at Purity-IQ authenticate ingredients for food and natural health products, using tests based on molecular diagnostic tools developed by Newmaster, director of U of G’s Natural Health Products Research Alliance.

The technology has received widespread media attention with a Canadian Press article receiving wide distribution, along with reports on CTV News, Global News and more


Prof. Steve Newmaster

Watch the report on CTV National News below.