Nicoya to receive funding, advisory services through NRC IRAP to develop COVID-19 test


Kitchener-Waterloo-based healthtech startup Nicoya has been selected to receive advisory services and up to approximately $299,000 from the federal government to develop a portable COVID-19 diagnostic test called Atlas.

“Atlas will fill an important void in the current testing space, as a portable COVID-19 test that can fit seamlessly into economic re-opening strategies.”

Nicoya will receive funding through the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP). The capital is part of a joint challenge issued by the Public Health Agency of Canada and NRC. The agencies’ COVID-19 Challenge Program aims to expedite solutions for rapid testing in decentralized and point-of-care settings. The funding will specifically be used by Nicoya to expedite research and development.

“There is an urgent need for diagnostic kits that can provide users with immediate results, rather than having to rely on testing labs that can take two to five days,” said Ryan Denomme, co-founder and CEO of Nicoya. “Delays increase the possibility of infected people spreading the virus further, or uninfected people facing unnecessary quarantine.”

“Atlas will fill an important void in the current testing space, as a portable COVID-19 test that can fit seamlessly into economic re-opening strategies,” Denomme added.

Nicoya said Atlas will be a single-use, disposable device that can detect infection by testing for the viral proteins in COVID-19. Nicoya is powering the device with smartphone technology so it can deliver lab-quality results to an app in under 20 minutes.

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The test will be performed with a saliva sample, rather than the nasal swab, which is more commonly done to test COVID-19. The development of an Atlas prototype is currently underway.

Spun out of the University of Waterloo in 2012, Nicoya uses nanotechnology, microfluidics (the science of manipulating and controlling fluids), and AI to develop products that are meant to enable scientists to better understand and develop treatments for diseases, such as cancer, hepatitis, and Alzheimer’s.

The company raised $10 million CAD in Series A funding earlier this year, and was also one of four Phase I funding recipients from the federal government’s Point-of-Care Diagnostic Test Kit Challenge.

“Nicoya is an exemplary company already working hard on pioneering innovative research and finding solutions together, and this approach is a pillar to ensuring we have both short and long-term solutions to fight the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Raj Saini, member of parliament for Kitchener Centre.

Image courtesy Nicoya.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.