Canadian Manufacturing

Spartan Bioscience making waves with portable COVID test

Demand for the Spartan Cube is expected to increase by summer 2020

April 30, 2020  by Alanna Fairey, Associate Editor, with a file from The Canadian Press

PHOTO: Spartan Bioscience

OTTAWA – On April 13, Ottawa-based Spartan Bioscience’s portable COVID-19 test kit was approved by Health Canada as a means to help combat the spread of the virus.

Since the company received this approval, Spartan has already signed contracts for its test kit – aptly named the Spartan Cube – with the Canadian federal government and provincial governments such as Ontario, Quebec and Alberta.

According to Molly Kett, Spartan Bioscience’s director of communications, Spartan’s COVID-19 test has the capability to provide results in under an hour.


Related: Health Canada approves Spartan Bioscience’s portable COVID-19 test


The Spartan Cube consists of a portable DNA analyzer, which is about the size of a coffee cup.

The solution can only process one test at a time and is not a replacement for large COVID-19 testing machines, which can process up to 384 samples at a time, but it has applications in areas without advanced medical infrastructure.

“The sample-to-result automated test is designed to be operated by non-laboratory personnel in decentralized settings such as airports, border crossings, doctors’ offices, pharmacies, clinics and remote communities,” Kett explained in an interview with Canadian Manufacturing.

The Spartan Cube performs the test using a single-use COVID-19 DNA test cartridge. The sample is collected with the help of a swab and then inserted into the cartridge.

Once the swab is inside the analyzer, it promptly extracts the DNA and then proceeds to make millions of DNA copies based on unique chemistry called polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a process that consists of heating and cooling.

The thermal cycling of PCR helps to detect the presence or absence of a gene to help identify pathogens, which allows the device to discover the virus.

The Spartan Cube is about the size of a coffee cup, but has the ability to generate test results within an hour. PHOTO: Spartan Bioscience

While it is still the early stages of production, Kett shared that demand for the Spartan Cube is expected to increase by summer 2020.

“Spartan is working around the clock to ramp up production in a challenging environment globally, and we are on track to double our capacity by the summer,” Kett said.

Although Spartan has received a plethora of international inquiries about its rapid COVID-19 test, Kett said the firm made an internal business decision that it would not be accepting orders from outside of Canada until domestic needs have been met.

“After these needs are met, we anticipate significant demand from public and private sector organizations around the world,” Kett said.