Since the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA) began 42 years ago we have represented the interests of Small to Medium science and technology-centric enterprises. Today these Canada headquartered businesses are in the tens of thousands and have grown to be the heart of the Canadian economy.
We are over 120 days into COVID19 and we do not see a comprehensive, emergency response, nor a strategic recovery plan for the technology sector. We do see previously vibrant companies struggling, laying off staff, trying to pivot to improve their chances of survival. These firms are crucial to Canada’s economy and job creation.
In this ongoing series, we profile companies dealing with the reality of COVID-19 and their experience with emergency government support programs.
We are inspired, we hope you are too.
Danny Dalla-Longa is CEO of Calgary-based FluroTech Ltd. He is a former Alberta MLA. He knows how the system goes round and says, “This federal government has lost their way. They are not economically minded, they are socially minded. They need to support and advance the technology sector.”
Right now, during this pandemic he says it is the most difficult time he’s ever faced raising money. He calls this an economic pandemic that is costing the North American economy $150 Billion every month.
FluroTech began three years ago and with a heavy investment in research and development, commercialized a machine that can in seconds accurately determine if a sample is marijuana or hemp and measure its potency. In many jurisdictions, there is a huge need for the test because one can be legal and the other illegal. The product is called CompleTestTM and interest from consumers was picking up as COVID-19 hit.
But in a fascinating twist, the drug testing machine uses a proprietary platform technology that is used to detect a wide range of particles and is now being developed to test for COVID-19 antibodies and determine if you are currently infected and what is your viral load… meaning how infectious a person may be.
COVID-19 testing has a massive market potential as we all want to know our medical status. The company is targeting a $20 per test cost to take a saliva sample test with results in about 5 minutes. The “New Normal” may very well be a type of “viral card” which will require frequent updating. It would allow us to determine who is safe and so who can come to the office, who could come into a sporting event, who could visit with family and friends. Dalla-Longa sees people getting tested 4 to 7 times a month meaning millions of tests per year. Sports teams have already contacted him to learn more about the possibilities.
The current PCR based testing technology is outdated. Flurotest’s technology says Dalla-Longa, “Will not just tell you if you are infected but will tell you if you were infected plus can tell you if you could infect others .
The research and development of the testing device by FluroTech took place at the University of Calgary. They patented the technology with 58 unique claims and the company went public. The company is at an early stage and have begun sales although not yet cash flow positive. Curtis Smith the CFO says, “The banks and by extension, Export Development Corporation and Business Development Bank are not receptive to issuing grants to support our business. They said, since we are pre-revenue we are not a real business. The government said they had a program to help firms like us. We applied in early April, so far no response.” The company did qualify for the $40,000 federal loan program.
So the hunt is on for money and partners to do more development and testing for the COVID-19 application. This new venture is called FluroTest. Dalla-Longa says it looks like it will be US money and US labs that will be the primary solution. In April they signed an agreement with Albany, New York Medical College and Alberta BioPhotonics Inc. The plan is to conduct human testing by October plus they need to get government health approvals. Money becomes crucial to continue the work. They estimate they will need (USD) $2 to 4 million to complete the validation and obtain emergency regulatory approvals plus distribution and manufacturing partners.
During the firm’s initial development phase for Cannabis testing the company used funds from the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SRED) program. The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA) has proposed using the SRED pipeline to get significant money to the 13,000 firms that have used SRED in recent years. These companies have a track record with the government. Dalla-Longa says that kind of money would enable a significant advance for this groundbreaking test method for COVID-19 and bring this technology to market swiftly.
For more information contact Danny Dalla-Longa 403 680 0644, or visit www.flurotech.com