When COVID-19 hit, NRC IRAP established subject expert teams (SET) to address critical medical supply-chain issues and help source made-in-Canada solutions. Having worked 27 years in the biotechnology industry, including 13 years as an industrial technology advisor (ITA) with a portfolio of clients in diagnostics, medical devices and therapeutics, I was asked to lead NRC IRAP's Diagnostics and Testing Kit SET.
The team helped bring forward SMEs who had the right business, technical and manufacturing capabilities in this field to produce solutions for Canada and for export. A particular highlight in this role involved working with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) to help them establish bio-surveillance capabilities at Toronto Pearson Airport. I saw this as an opportunity to run some trials using existing Canadian diagnostics technologies. We set up temporary laboratories in 2 of their terminals. We brought in an NRC IRAP client that was developing a rapid antigen test, and another that was developing a new application of infrared technology that signaled COVID-19 biomarkers through a 30-second finger scan. We also involved an NRC IRAP client that had a Health Canada-approved PCR test, so at the end of the day their trial could be validated. In addition, we connected the GTAA with another client that had the cloud data system to process the results of the test and send them directly to passengers' cell phones, so they could show a negative test result before boarding. Overall, the trial tested 33,000 passengers and employees and detected 115 positive tests. It was amazing to bring these SMEs together for this trial and even more amazing to see what Canada can do.