Sona Nanotech has announced a partnership with GE Healthcare Life Sciences to produce a rapid-response test for the Covid-19 coronavirus, which has sent Sona shares up into uncharted territory.

The two companies announced Tuesday that they will jointly complete test development of the Sona Covid-19 Coronavirus rapid response lateral flow test. They will use GE Healthcare’s Fast Flow High Performance Membrane, or FFHP, in production of the test.  Halifax-based Sona will retain all commercial rights to the resulting test.

Sona shares, which first traded on the alternative Canadian Securities Exchange in October 2018, surged 44 percent to 94 cents on Tuesday. The shares have soared almost 400 percent since the company announced Feb. 11 that it was developing a test for Covid-19. It now has a market capitalization (the total value of all its shares) of almost $50 million.

“It is exciting to work with a best-in-class partner like GE Healthcare Life Sciences, drawing on their expertise and to use the new FFHP Membrane,” said Sona CEO Darren Rowles in a statement. “With their help, we will be able to accelerate our work and hopefully bring this critical test to the market quicker.”

Originating in China in December, Covid-19 has spread around the world. There have been more than 90,000 cases globally, with more than 3,000 deaths.

Sona has developed two methods for the manufacture of rod-shaped gold nanoparticles for use in diagnostic testing. The company, which grew out of nanotechnology research conducted at St. Francis Xavier University, intends to use its technology in a disposable lateral flow test (similar to pregnancy tests that can be administered without skilled technicians or additional laboratory equipment).

Currently, most Covid-19 virus testing uses molecular-based technology, a testing platform that typically costs more than $200 per test, takes two to four hours to produce results, and requires specialized laboratory equipment and skilled technicians, Sona said last month.

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Lateral flow assays provide results in between five and 15 minutes and can be administered by a layperson, said the company. The new test is expected to cost less than $50. There is currently no lateral flow test specific to the Covid-19 strain of the coronavirus, the February statement said.

Sona and GE Healthcare said Tuesday they will work in parallel to complete the test prior to field testing.  GE Healthcare – General Electric’s medical unit, which reports US$20 billion in annual sales – will support Sona through their studies as they work to get their test introduced into markets as quickly as possible.

Sona said it expects to provide near-term updates on the development of its rapid-response test.

The Sona Covid-19 lateral flow test will use GE Healthcare’s FFHP Membrane, which is specifically designed to allow for multiple optimization techniques (potentially allowing the test to become market ready sooner) and fast flow performance (potentially allowing for faster individual test results).

“This collaboration all started when Darren and I connected following my social media post offering to collaborate on a Covid-19 diagnostic,” said Klaus Hochleitner, the Global Lead of the Technology Product Specialist group at GE Healthcare Life Sciences.  “This ties in to our daily mission of advancing and accelerating therapeutics, by supporting the global scientific community working tirelessly to address the Covid-19 outbreak.”