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Canadian innovation is helping CFIA fast track technology that tests animals for coronaviruses

September 2020

Canadian innovation is helping CFIA

There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic situation has posed significant challenges to the daily operations of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and industry sectors. Now, more than ever, innovative public-private partnerships are needed to identify and apply novel solutions to emerging challenges. In April, Innovative Solutions Canada (ISC) put out a call to Canadian innovators and entrepreneurs to seek out new partnerships and offered to fund the development of solutions to combat emerging threats like coronaviruses.

Breakthrough in animal disease surveillance technology

On July 16, 2020, the Government of Canada awarded Fusion Genomics Corporation a contract under the COVID-19 call for the ISC testing stream for their innovation – ONETest CoronaViruses (CoV)-FAST, to support animal disease surveillance technology, including testing for coronaviruses in animals.

The innovation is a kit that requires only standard laboratory equipment and access to a DNA sequencer. With a mandate that includes safeguarding Canada’s animals from diseases, the CFIA was matched with Fusion Genomics Corporation to test this kit prototype. The kit is capable of detecting viruses that can infect both human and animal species, such as SARS-CoV-2.

"The features of this innovation provide the ability to prevent and contain infectious disease outbreaks not possible before," says Dr. Primal Silva, CFIA's Chief Science Operating Officer. "This technology will be tested by the CFIA at the Winnipeg Laboratory and, if successful, will improve animal disease surveillance technology in both wildlife and domestic animals. It will also provide a greater understanding of diseases circulating in Canadian animals."

How Innovative Solutions Canada works

Innovative Solutions Canada is a procurement program under Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), with 20 federal departments participating to support Canadian innovation.

Under the program's challenge stream, federal departments invite small businesses to develop solutions to Government of Canada and stakeholder challenges. Under the testing stream, formerly called the Build in Canada Innovation Program, departments are matched with companies that have developed late-stage innovations to test them for applicability within the Government of Canada.

"Under the program, the CFIA has a tremendous opportunity to gain access to innovative technologies, products and services that solve challenges we are facing," says Dr. Silva. "And the Agency has already seen improvements in its ability to innovate as we have launched several programs that are already showing results."

Where challenges meet opportunities

Since 2018, the Agency has asked small business to propose solutions to six challenges we are facing, including:

Marine biotoxin challenge

The idea: Developing a detection device for marine biotoxins in shellfish.

Why? Having an inexpensive but effective marine biotoxin detection device that could be easily used and interpreted would be beneficial, especially for remote and Indigenous communities.

Status: The CFIA received two proposals from small businesses in Canada that met the evaluation criteria. The Agency is awarding two contracts for this challenge and those companies will soon begin developing their solutions.

Foot-and-mouth disease vaccine matching challenge

The idea: A solution that uses predictive computer models for Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) vaccine matching.

Why? To help specialists determine which vaccine strains would be most successful at preventing and controlling field outbreaks of FMD in livestock.

Status: Following a thorough review of the proposals received from small businesses, the CFIA is currently working with one company to put in place a contract in fall 2020.

Innovation to detect foodborne hazards with the use of a handheld device challenge

The idea: The development of an approach to reduce the time and resources that are needed to detect foodborne hazards from samples taken from food production and processing facilities, as well as food products that require minimal processing such as leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables.

Why? The use of field-deployable devices can reduce risk in the production of safe and sustainable foods by detecting foodborne pathogens in several aspects of the farm-to-fork continuum.

Status: This challenge was posted in June 2020 and 33 proposals were received from Canadian small businesses. The CFIA is currently evaluating the proposals to determine if they meet the evaluation criteria. This step should be complete by fall 2020.

Plant pest mitigation challenge

The idea: The development of an alternative plant pest risk mitigation approach that is comparable to methyl bromide, but with fewer negative impacts.

Why? Innovative pest management solutions for quarantine and pre-shipment uses would support exporters in meeting phytosanitary requirements of our trading partners and address evolving plant health risks in Canada.

Closing soon: This challenge was posted in July 2020. Small businesses have until September 9, 2020 to submit a proposal.

Learn more

Interested in the Innovative Solutions Canada program or want to be a part of developing innovative solutions to challenges faced by CFIA or its stakeholders? Learn more about Innovative Solutions Canada.

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