Spartan Bioscience Develops One-Hour COVID-19 Test

The device is about the size of a coffee cup and can be deployed in airports, border crossings, and more.

Need to Know

  • Health Canada has approved the use of a rapid portable COVID-19 testing device developed by Ottawa-based company Spartan Bioscience.
  • The Spartan Cube is about the size of a coffee cup and was developed to aid rural communities in expediting testing procedures. It eliminates the need to send a swab test back to a lab for formal testing.
  • The federal government, as well as Ontario and Alberta governments, currently have contracts to purchase the Spartan Cubes. Ontario has ordered 1 million kits, while Alberta has ordered 100,000.
  • “There is an urgent unmet need for rapid COVID-19 testing,” said Spartan Bioscience CEO Paul Lem.


As governments and health organizations look for ways to expedite the process of testing and fighting COVID-19, small biohealth companies are doing their part by developing their own solutions. Spartan Bioscience has hit a breakthrough with its Spartan Cube receiving Health Canada approval to be distributed and used across the country.

The device, roughly the size of a hand, removes the need to send swabs back to a lab for further testing. Users can determine if they have COVID-19 in less than an hour. This is extremely useful for rural communities without access to hospitals or large medical facilities.

The test itself can be administered by non-laboratory personnel, so apart form rural communities, it could see widespread usage in settings such as airports, border crossings, and small clinics.

“We are grateful to the Government of Canada for working closely with us to expedite the review and approval process,” said Paul Lem, CEO of Spartan Bioscience.

“We are ready to start shipping our portable COVID-19 test to the federal and provincial governments, and to make them widely available to Canadians. There is an urgent unmet need for rapid COVID-19 testing, and as a proudly Canadian company, we are excited that our technology will be an important part of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada.”

Lem told The Globe and Mail that his company has been bombarded with requests for devices over the last few weeks. Foreign governments are requesting thousands of devices, while private companies are looking to secure them to test employees who may head back to work shortly. Even surgeons are reaching out to ask about the Spartan Cube in an effort to get back to work.

The device itself was funded with support from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program.

Spartan Bioscience’s technology is currently being used by Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the New York State Department of Health, and orders of 1 million and 100,000 Spartan Cubes have been placed by Ontario and Alberta governments, respectively.

“We think portable, rapid COVID-19 testing will be important to help control the pandemic,” said Lem. “It is gratifying to see a made-in-Canada solution helping Canadians.”