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The future of testing: Bio-Stream takes diagnostics to new heights at a low cost

Health and Life Sciences, AI and Technology
Published On
November 17, 2022

Ideas inspire change, and in changing, challenging times, true innovation emerges in the Edmonton region. In our innovative ecosystem, companies like Bio-Stream Diagnostics Inc. see the Edmonton region as the place to build on ideas, access the right markets, and change the medical world.

Launching in 2020, during the global pandemic, the company went to work developing the first health detection platform based on organic electrochemical transistor (OECT) technology, designed to provide accurate, fast, low-cost test results for a variety of viruses and ailments that health professionals, researchers, pharmacists, and patients can use.

“Before 2020, I was focused on building sensors and machine learning. After COVID hit, I realized there were a lot of bigger problems out there, so I started Bio-stream,” said John Murphy, CEO of Bio-Stream.

How Bio-Stream’s technology works

Each consumable test involves the application of a small bio-sample—like saliva, a swab, blood, and more­—to a disposable sensor strip with an embedded OECT transistor. The strip is then placed into a pocket-sized, battery-operated, Bluetooth-enabled reader device, and results are returned within minutes.

The accuracy of using OETC is comparable to gold standard lab tests at a fraction of current lab costs. The chip also creates less waste than the disposable plastic COVID-19 tests we are familiar with.

“One of the exciting things happening on the manufacturing side is that the sensors can be made in the same factory as glucose strips. Because of this screen-printing process, you can make these at a low cost, and you get the results in a couple of minutes,” said Murphy.

Not only can diagnosis and treatments start sooner by eliminating the need for lengthy lab results, but the built-in digital capabilities of the reader allow all test results to automatically be captured, stored, and shared, including a downloadable smartphone app for patients.

The possibilities are endless

Custom testing sensor strips can be built for customers in about six weeks, depending on what they want to detect. An OECT transistor can be built with different kinds of bait such as antibodies, aptamers, and chemicals.  So, by simply changing the functionalization chemistry, another type of test can be developed using the same OECT strip technology and reader.

Point-of-care professionals could potentially use the device to test for COVID-19 and other viruses, sexually transmitted infections, respiratory, cardiovascular, and inflammatory disease, diabetes, bacteria, and more.

Bio-Stream’s technology can also be applied to the agriculture sector to detect bovine respiratory disease, for example, where treatment and mortality due to the disease can account for as much as 10% of production costs.

An innovative ecosystem in the Edmonton region

With a growing tech ecosystem, government support, and research and lab infrastructure already in place, headquartering Bio-stream in the Edmonton region was a no-brainer for Murphy and his team.

“We had great support from the ecosystem including PrairiesCAN, Edmonton Global, Alberta Innovates, the National Research Council of Canada and its Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP), Edmonton Unlimited [formerly Innovate Edmonton]…the University of Alberta, and more. We were also able to work with local labs that were already established, which is key if you want to get patient samples from an authorized lab. The ecosystem here is good,” said Murphy.

The company was co-founded with BioMark, a cancer diagnostic company, and the intellectual property was obtained from the University of Alberta to build the technology. Other universities helping with validation include the Université de Montréal, Qatar University, Rowan University, and the University of British Columbia.

Bio-Stream co-founders Rashid Bux (left) and John Murphy (right)

What’s next for Bio-Stream

Bio-Stream is now looking for its first few customers in need of technology that will rapidly detect a target — those working in diabetes and respiratory infections are of particular interest.

Investor inquiries are always welcome. Bio-Stream is also looking to expand manufacturing of the technology to the region and is talking with post-secondary institutions, government groups, companies, and the tech ecosystem on next steps.

Testing matters in health and wellness, and this versatile, low-cost solution from Bio-stream is just one example of innovative solutions coming from the Edmonton region, solving some of the world’s most pressing problems.

Kessia Kopecky