Portable Covid-19 test solution takes off in Canada

In Europe, the early stages of the Covid-19 outbreak were felt first in the region of Lombardy in Italy. It is fitting that Hyris, a biotechnology company born from that same epicentre, has produced a novel Covid-19 detection solution. Having announced in May the closure of a series A round of investment, the company has seen a promising response to the manoeuvre.

Hyris is a London-based Italian start-up that developed an integrated AI platform for DNA testing of biological samples. Started in 2014 by a group of Italian engineers, the original commercial focus was botanicals and plant health.

In botanicals, Hyris’s platform is used to identify genetic material in the preparation of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and nutritional supplements. And the platform is also used by agronomists and growers to assess plant health.

What sets the solution apart is that it can be used in any setting, at any time, with results in two hours or less.

“The bCUBE is a small, portable genomic biotechnology that is ideal for on-site immediate test results,” said Prof. Steve Newmaster, director of botany genomics at University of Guelph in Toronto. Newmaster and his colleagues validated the bCUBE after using it for several years in the food and natural products industry, he explained.

The on the edge testing solution combines an AI platform with patented hardware. The bCUBE 2.0 is a miniaturised, portable, state-of-the-art device for DNA and RNA detection methods which fits in one hand. The device is then used in conjunction with the bespoke genetic testing reagents: the bKIT.

Results from the bCUBE detection platform are viewed on a graphic user interface, an app compatible with all major devices and operating systems.

Responding to the pandemic

In April this year, in response to the horrific first waves of the pandemic, Hyris launched its Virus Finder System. At first, the company concentrated on surface detection of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes Covid-19.

This solution, which exploited the already proven technological platform, was designed for businesses, transport companies, and epidemiological surveillance companies, with the aim of ensuring safety in the workplace.

Then in September, Hyris received approval for sales in Canada of its human specimen Covid-19 detection solution as a point-of-care test.

Hyris partnered with Songbird Life Science, securing itself a strategic national distributor, and ensuring that the technology would get to the people that needed it as part of a broad virus detection service.

“Our IoT diagnostic platform […] is able to provide real-time data collection and interpretation, making the diagnostic results simple to read even by non-experts,” explained Stefano lo Priore, founder and CEO of Hyris.

In Europe, the solution is CE-IVD marked, while in the US, FDA EUA is under evaluation. The test has been cleared for sale in Europe and the USA, and it is already being used by customers worldwide.

The kit itself is based on one of the World Health Organisation’s recommended COVID-19 tests, adopted by several of the major diagnostic centres fighting the pandemic, according to Stefano.

Getting noticed

Since gaining approval in Canada, interest in Hyris has intensified. The company announced that it closed a Series A round of investment, completed in May for an undisclosed figure.

Funding was led by Astanor Ventures a deep tech venture capital fund, with participation from a strategic pool of Italian investors, including NEOS Medica, Idb Holding, and Pi Campus, an AI-focused venture capital firm. The investment is being used to strengthen and scale the company’s deployment and marketing operations. Hyris also aims to enhance its offering in the pharmaceutical, virology, and epidemiology sectors.

Multiple verticals and a growing body of positive academic literature suggest a bright future for the solution. The bCube has seen frontline application in tracking other diseases, such as Zika virus and dengue fever. Hyris has offices in London and Milan, with a research and development centre located in Lodi, Italy.

Mark Swift is a Scottish freelance journalist and writer based in Paris. His work covers business, technology, European politics, and EU policy. Before writing for 4i-mag, he was a journalist for Young Company Finance Scotland, covering investment in Scottish technology start-ups. Mark's portfolio can be found here: