Portable, low-cost hardware for decentralized COVID-19 diagnostics for Canada, Colombia, and Ecuador

The unfolding COVID-19 pandemic highlights the critical need for a diverse diagnostics strategy. Reliance on a single, highly centralized diagnostic technology, such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR), has led to supply chain disruption and bottlenecks in testing access. As attention is turning to the tools needed to relaunch economies, two capabilities have been identified as key: decentralized diagnostic testing for COVID-19 and serological testing to screen population antibody levels.

This project aims to develop, validate, and implement the molecular tools and hardware required to support the decentralized, high-capacity diagnostic and serological testing to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, Colombia, and Ecuador. The team proposes adapting a previously designed portable plate reader to deploy two key diagnostic modalities: a rapid (15 minute) molecular COVID-19 virologic test and serological testing of antibodies. Implementation and testing of this decentralized diagnostic capacity will be performed at small businesses in Canada, and with hospital workers and remote populations in Colombia and Ecuador. Together these tests will prevent a resurgence of infections as communities begin to reduce lockdown restrictions. It will also determine the prevalence of antibody levels in the population, which may help to promote strategic use of future vaccine stocks.

The project was selected for funding through the COVID-19 May 2020 Rapid Research Funding Opportunity, coordinated by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research in partnership with IDRC and several other health research funding agencies across Canada.

Project ID


Project status



12 months

IDRC Officer

Fabiano Santos

Total funding

CA$ 442,526


Colombia, Ecuador


Foundations for Innovation

Project Leader

Keith Pardee


The Governing Council of the University of Toronto

Institution Country


Institution Website