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New Rapid, Saliva-Based COVID-19 Antigen Test Could Be More Affordable, Sensitive, and Easy to Use

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 08 Apr 2021
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Image: Atlas (Photo courtesy of Nicoya Lifesciences)
Image: Atlas (Photo courtesy of Nicoya Lifesciences)
A portable, smartphone-powered device that comes with a simple saliva collection kit could make rapid testing for COVID-19 more accessible and easier to deploy

Nicoya Lifesciences (Ontario, Canada) is developing a saliva-based, portable and rapid COVID-19 diagnostic test, called Atlas, that is able to provide PCR levels of performance without the need for complex lab equipment or highly trained technicians, unlike other point-of-care diagnostics. Atlas is a low-cost, single-use device that tests for active SARS-CoV-2 infection via viral antigen detection. Users will be able to self-administer the test with a simple saliva collection kit and smartphone application that will take them from sample to answer in under 20 minutes. These benefits increase the accessibility of the test which will result in Atlas becoming more widely adopted globally.

Its differentiated supply chain also ensures that it can be manufactured at scale. This is a vital resource alongside vaccine distribution to help slow and end the pandemic by identifying the virus in people before it can continue to spread. Atlas will meet the demand for widespread testing because it doesn’t require a lab, trained professionals, or 2-5 days to process results like commonly used RT-PCR tests. As a platform technology, Atlas is well suited to adapt to the rapidly changing nature of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, allowing it to remain effective towards viral variants and help mitigate future crises. As a test that is affordable, sensitive, and easy to use, Atlas will be widely accessible on the global stage. Nicoya is receiving additional advisory services and funding to continue research and development of its rapid, saliva-based COVID-19 antigen test.

"In a short period of time, our team was able to leverage years of experience to develop a completely novel method of viral detection that solves many of the issues with the current point-of-care tests," said Ryan Denomme, co-founder and CEO of Nicoya. "Combining ease-of-use and affordability while still maintaining the highest levels of performance makes Atlas a powerful tool to combat this and future pandemics.

"Looking beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlas will allow communities around the world to be better prepared for future viral outbreaks," added Arjun Sudarsan, PhD, Chief Technical Officer at Nicoya. "As we saw over the last year, we were unprepared for a pandemic of this magnitude. By adopting a portable test like Atlas, countries can ensure they have the capabilities needed to scale up diagnostic testing, while also providing individual users with accessible and effective testing. This platform-based approach to diagnostic testing will help prepare the world for viral outbreaks beyond SARS-CoV-2."

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