BC Cancer Researchers Develop Breath-Based Test To Screen For COVID
March 11, 2021
VANCOUVER – Innovative COVID-19 breath test, developed by BC Cancer researchers and currently being piloted, gets new infusion of funds from Concord Pacific.
Right now, British Columbians have access to two primary COVID-19 tests, the dreaded, Np swab up the nose and a gargle test with saline. Both tests require a lab to process and return results, which take on average 24 hours.
With kick-starter funds from Beedie the BC Cancer team swiftly launched a pilot. Dr. Renelle Myers, BC Cancer scientist and study lead, explains, “breath-based testing will be faster, easy to use, accurate and less expensive.”
The test collects breath as a person exhales into a small tube. The breath sample can then be quickly analyzed for the presence of COVID-19.
And, what really stands out, their test could return results within a couple of minutes.
“As the pandemic began to emerge, we knew that our technology, developed to detect early signs of lung cancer, had great potential to help find a rapid, non-invasive, highly accurate COVID-19 test,” says Dr. Stephen Lam, a clinician scientist at BC Cancer and study co-lead.
With vaccines rolling out and providing a beacon of light the research team sees value in a rapid test as an important layer to safe in-person activities.
“This technology could be an amazing addition to the tests already being used for COVID-19,” said Terry Hui, President and CEO, Concord Pacific. “I understand the technology has the potential of expanding to also be a quick test for other infectious diseases. It has big potential for not only protecting front line workers but helping families and communities get back to normal with quick testing at special occasions like weddings and public events like the Concord Pacific Vancouver Dragon Boat Festival. Terry Hui continued, “I am proud to see this research work is happening in Vancouver, British Columbia.”
Drs. Myers and Lam have already tested 300 study participants of their 1,000 participant goal. They’ve identified several distinct compounds from COVID positive participants, which would be used to identify COVID 19 positive or negative results and to understand the metabolic pathways of the infection.
The aim is to emerge with a simple, inexpensive, highly accurate test that can be deployed anywhere with a portable machine that determines results in minutes
Rapid, accurate testing for COVID-19 continues to be an important tool in minimizing spread, something BC Cancer’s scientists know can help minimize the burden for cancer patients in B.C. and around the world.
“We wanted to be a part of the solution to the global pandemic, so right out of the gate we made a donation to the BC Cancer Foundation to propel this incredible, rapid breath test technology. It really stood out as a tangible way back to safe, social living,” says Ryan Beedie.
And, with success gained through COVID-19, the innovative analysis can rapidly move forward in testing early stages of lung cancer through the highly cost-effective method.
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