Air Canada Partners with Spartan for Rapid COVID Testing

Spartan will develop a proprietary swab for airline carrier use.

Need to Know

  • The airline carrier is determining how to deploy Ottawa-based Spartan’s portable COVID-testing tech.
  • Spartan is developing a proprietary swab as its test cartridge and the Spartan Cube remain subject to Health Canada approval.
  • Air Canada will add Spartan’s eventual tech to its CleanCare+ biosafety program, announced in May.


Air Canada announced the latest in its series of plans to safeguard customers and staff against COVID-19, partnering with biotech firm Spartan to deploy portable coronavirus testing to be used by the airline.

Spartan Bioscience will work with Air Canada to determine how its testing technology can best be used by the air carrier, as part of Air Canada’s commitment to developing “multiple layers of biosafety measures for customers and employees,” VP of safety for Air Canada Samuel Elfassy said in a statement.

“We believe the availability of a rapid, accurate, portable molecular test for COVID-19 will add yet another effective layer,” he added. “We are excited by the potential and point of care use cases for the Spartan Cube, and look forward to working with the Spartan team in the weeks and months ahead.”

The aforementioned Cube, developed by Spartan in early 2020, is a portable DNA analyzer that has the ability to do tests for the virus that caused COVID-19. It was given emergency-use approval by Health Canada, but, after Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and the federal government ordered thousands of units of the Cube, it was determined that its efficacy was sub-par (the Cube uses a non-invasive swab), leading to a manufacturing limbo for Spartan.

The Air Canada partnership could mark a bounceback for Spartan, after the Cube halt. Nick Noreau, Spartan Bioscience’s CRO, said the company is “excited to explore how our fast, portable testing technology can help keep Air Canada employees and the travelling public safe as Canada’s economy re-opens.”

Air Canada has been a leader in passenger and staff safety throughout the pandemic: according to the release announcing the Spartan partnership, Air Canada was one of the first airline carriers to require face coverings aboard planes and was the first carrier in the Americas to take passengers’ temperature before boarding. Its CleanCare+ program comprises a suite of biosafety measures, including contact-free baggage drop, virtual queueing, and hand sanitizer dispensers.