Richmond’s bioLytical Laboratories develops 60-second Ebola test

BioLytical Laboratories, the Richmond biotech best known for its 60-second HIV test, has developed ...

bioLytical's 60-second Ebola test | Photo: bioLytical Laboratories

BioLytical Laboratories, the Richmond biotech best known for its 60-second HIV test, has developed a similarly speedy test for the Ebola Zaire strain, the virus currently afflicting West Africa that is responsible for more than 5,000 deaths.

The test is in the prototype, pre-clinical stage and uses the same platform as the HIV test.

“There is clearly a pressing need for a diagnostic test that can rapidly and accurately detect the presence of this potentially deadly infection as early as possible and in diverse testing environments,” said the company’s chief executive officer, Dr. Christopher Shackleton.

“We also believe that the speed of our INSTI platform will offer considerable advantages as compared to slower point-of-care assays when it comes to the screening of large numbers of subjects in the field as well as in those settings where time is a significant constraint such as travel points of entry.”

Shackleton told Business in Vancouver that he can't say for sure that this is the fastest Ebola test in the world (although he can say with confidence that the company's HIV test is the world's fastest).

"The only other rapid diagnostic test manufacturer that has made a public claim that we are aware off at the moment regarding an Ebola test is Chembio, who have announced a collaboration to develop a rapid test for Ebola.  However, their technology to date has produced devices that require 20+ minutes to yield a result. 

"So if not the fastest, our test would certainly be one of the fastest."

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said diagnosing Ebola in someone who has been infected is tricky, as early symptoms – those that show up in the first few days – are similar to those found in malaria and typhoid fever. There is currently no vaccine.

This is not the first British Columbia-based company working to address the Ebola crisis. Burnaby’s Tekmira Pharmaceuticals (TSX:TKM) has developed an experimental treatment to treat the disease, and in September, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted the company permission to treat patients before clinical trials have been concluded. Mission Ready Services of Vancouver announced October 27 that it is working to deploy HAZMAT gear to healthcare workers in West Africa.

The current outbreak is the world’s first Ebola epidemic, the CDC said, and the first outbreak in West Africa.