DX Deals

Global Collaboration Seeks to Develop Game-Changing Handheld COVID-19 Breathalyzer Test

A handheld, easy-to-use breathalyzer device capable of accurately detecting COVID-19 at the point of care would represent a breakthrough in the effort to contain the spread of the virus. That vision may now be closer to reality thanks to a new international collaboration to test the idea’s viability. Here’s a look at the deal and its potential significance.

A New COVID-19 Testing Modality

Rapid and accurate point-of-care testing performed on a mass basis, including both the symptomatic and asymptomatic, is crucial to containing coronavirus spread. However, only a few of the COVID-19 diagnostic tests that have hit the U.S. market since the pandemic began have received regulatory approval for testing people who are asymptomatic.

People displaying symptoms of illness should be the priority when testing resources are in scarce supply. By the same token, the coronavirus is mostly spread by persons who don’t have symptoms. That makes it imperative to develop a method of providing mass testing to asymptomatic people without diverting resources desperately needed for testing the symptomatic.

The Potential for VOCs Testing

Current COVID-19 diagnostics, including laboratory developed tests (LDTs), are based molecular, antibodies or antigen detection. A potential solution is to develop a new modality using a different biomarker to detect the virus. One candidate is exhaled volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that could be detected via a rapid breath test. And that’s the idea behind the new research collaboration between Canary Health Technologies and Divoc Laboratories.

The Collaboration

Announced on Nov. 30, the objective of the collaboration between Canary and Divoc is to develop and validate a handheld digital breath test for coronavirus. Canary is a U.S.-based medical technology company that uses proven biomarkers, proprietary nanosensors and AI-powered software to map and uncover data in human breath to detect cancers, inflammatory and infectious diseases on a rapid basis. Divoc is a Dehli-based lab focused on providing a digitally empowered integrated approach to diagnostics.

The new Canary test, called ASU Detect CV19, uses next-generation, highly sensitive nanosensors to collect breath samples which are then analyzed through the use of cloud-based artificial intelligence capable of detecting the SARS-CoV-2 virus in less than three minutes. In addition to being disposable, which mitigates the risk of infection, the Canary test is scalable, low cost and viable for use at the point of care for mass screening of both the symptomatic and asymptomatic.

The Next Steps

The idea is exciting. The key question, of course, is whether it will actually work. In 2019, a clinical trial in Canada demonstrated that the Canary breath analysis platform is capable of detecting lung cancer with high sensitivity and specificity. To validate the concept for use with coronavirus, the partners are carrying out what they describe as the first and largest clinical trial using a real-time breath test using cloud-based artificial intelligence for pattern recognition to detect an infectious disease.

To be performed in Dehli, the trial researchers will collect breath samples from 750 people, including both COVID-19-positive patients and patients who don’t have the virus. They’ll be asked to breathe for three minutes into the device. The ASU device will then translate their breath biomarkers into electronic signals which will be transmitted to a centralized “lab in the cloud” for analysis. The partners also plan to start parallel trials in the U.S. and Europe.

If the trial is successful, Canary plans to seek fast-track regulatory approval in India, the U.S. and other markets while continuing to trial the test in real-world settings such as airports, resorts and other high-density areas.

Here’s a summary of other key strategic diagnostic deals announced in January 2021:


Partner 1 Partner(s) 2+ Deal Summary
Invitae Bristol Myers Squibb
Janssen Research & Development
  • Objective: Develop NGS-based panel for standardized minimal residual disease (MRD) detection in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients
  • Dynamic: Leverage Invitae’s anchored multiplex PCR chemistry to standardize MRD measurement methods for use in clinical trials assessing effectiveness of AML treatments and as biomarker for predicting patient survival after treatment
Invitae Pacific Biosciences
  • Objective: Develop production-scale, high-throughput whole-genome sequencing (WGS) platform for clinical use
  • Dynamic: Multi-year collaboration to leverage PacBio’s HiFi long-read next-generation sequencing to develop cost-effective assays and make WGS-powered analysis more accessible for carrier screening, evaluating immune system responses and diagnosing other heritable disease
  • Companies currently collaborating to use HiFi sequencing to develop new epilepsy diagnostics
Illumina Helix
  • Objective: Track new SARS-CoV-2 strains in U.S., including B.1.1.7 variant first identified in U.K.
  • Dynamic: With CDC support, Helix to analyze positive samples with S gene dropout on their PCR-based COVID-19 assay; Illumina to then use its COVIDSeq test to sequence a subset of anonymized samples to determine whether dropout is due to strain B.1.1.7 or a different mutation
Oxford Immunotec Valneva
  • Objective: Perform T-cell testing for Valneva’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate VLA2001
  • Dynamic: Oxford Immunotec (which is being acquired by PerkinElmer) to use its research-use-only T-Spot Discovery SARC-CoV-2 test on participants getting VLA2001 vaccine
Tempus A2 Biotherapeutics
  • Objective: Develop companion diagnostic test for Tmod, A2’s loss of heterozygosity (LOH)-targeted cell therapy platform
  • Dynamic: LOH CDx assay to run on Tempus’ xT sequencing platform to identify patients eligible for Tmod
  • Partnership may expand to include development of additional CDx tests for A2’s other clinical development programs
Qiagen Personal Genome Diagnostics
  • Objective: Provide clinical decision support to users of PGDx’s cancer genomic profiling tests
  • Dynamic: Non-exclusive agreement offering labs that purchase PGDx Elio oncology products option to receive standardized reporting from Qiagen based on professional guidelines to facilitate case review
  • Labs to also get access to Qiagen’s QCI Interpret One for rapid, evidence-based variant interpretation and reporting for NGS tests
Biodesix HiberCell
  • Objective: Develop enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for use as companion diagnostic test
  • Dynamic: Biodesix to develop CDx test to select patients for enrollment in future HiberCell clinical trials
Resolution Bioscience Mirati Therapeutics
  • Objective: Develop CDx to identify non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients who may benefit from Mirati’s investigational KRAS G12C inhibitor therapy
  • Dynamic: Leverage Resolution’s ctDx liquid biopsy technology to identify NSCLC patient candidates
Grail Amgen + AstraZeneca + Bristol Myers Squibb
  • Objective: Evaluate Grail’s methylation-based technology for detecting MRD in early-stage cancer patients
  • Dynamic: Grail to use results to adapt its targeted methylation platform for cancer screening for use to screen cancer patient’s blood for signs of MRD, a simpler solution not requiring upfront tissue samples or personalized assays
Clear Labs Integrated DNA Technologies
  • Objective: Automate and improve accuracy of Clear Dx SARS-CoV-2 assay
  • Dynamic: Expansion of previous agreement covering oligonucleotide supply agreement for food safety testing
Genuity Science Emory University
  • Objective: Develop population clinicogenomic database to support biomarker and drug target discovery and validation
  • Dynamic: Partnership to focus initially on neurogenerative conditions, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
CareDx IDbyDNA
  • Objective: Develop metagenomic infectious disease testing for transplant patients
  • Dynamic: Exclusive partnership to develop and commercialize AlloID, infectious disease test tailored to organ transplant donors and recipients that identifies over 100 pathogens, as well as drug resistance in viruses and bacteria
Sera Prognostics Anthem and its HealthCore insurer subsidiary
  • Objective: Determine if Sera’s PreTRM test can lead to improved health for newborns and mothers
  • Dynamic: Perform study to evaluate how pairing PreTRM test with clinical interventions may mitigate preterm birth risk, improve neonatal outcomes and reduce overall healthcare costs in this population
4D Lifetec VolitionRx
  • Objective: Determine whether combining each firm’s respective assay technology can improve identification of individuals with early-stage cancer
  • Dynamic: Perform clinical validation trial using 4D’s 4D Lifetest in combination with Volition’s NuQ technology in a set of lung cancer clinical samples


Product Owner Distributor Deal Summary
GenapSys Bioron
  • Products: GenapSys’ sequencing system
  • Territories: Germany
Phasefocus Cellink
  • Products: Phasefocus’ Livecyte high-content live-cell imaging platform
  • Territory: Undisclosed Cellink to offer Livecyte in combination with its own bioprinters, liquid handlers and bioinks products
Mission Bio Bioké
  • Products: Mission Bio’s Tapestri single-cell multi-omics platform
  • Territory: Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg
LevitasBio Bioké
  • Products: LevitasBio’s LeviCell cell separation system
  • Territory: Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg
PixCell Medical Triolab
  • Products: PixCell’s HemoScreen Hematology Analyzer
  • Territory: Sweden Exclusive
Access Bio Everlywell
  • Products: Access Bio’s CareStart COVID-19 antigen test
  • Territory: U.S. Test to be distributed to organizations in need
Curetis (OpGen subsidiary) Annar Health Technology
  • Products: Curetis Unyvero A50 instrument and Unyvero infectious disease diagnostic application cartridges
  • Territory: Colombia 3-year deal with 1-year renewal options under which Annar commits to purchase at least 10 Unyvero instruments and a large number of Unyvero cartridges


Licensor Licensee Deal Summary
Procter & Gamble Rhinostics Rhinostics licenses plastics technology for novel nasal swab to relieve COVID-19 testing supplies bottlenecks


Supplier/Servicer Client/User Deal Summary
Nexus Dx Osang Healthcare Nexus Dx to manufacture Osang’s GeneFinder COVID-19 Plus RealAmp Kit kit at its San Diego facility

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