Health Canada

Drug Checking Technology Challenge

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Dr. Dao Hinh Nguyen

Improvement of GC-SID for the detection of Fentanyl and Fentanyl Analogs

Scintrex Trace Corp.

Scintrex Trace Corp. develops innovative trace detection products and systems to help security and law enforcement agencies around the world detect explosives, drugs and other illicit substances for more than the 30 years. The project will be focused on the improvement of the portable instrument N2200 for the detection and identification of narcotics, using gas chromatography (GC) coupled to a surface ionization detector (SID). Area of improvement will be toward the optimization of the sensor and software to identify a broad spectrum of narcotics including Fentanyl and Fentanyl analogs. This mature technology can be readily deployed and used by first responders or healthcare providers, with minimal training to inform the user of possible contamination of Fentanyl or Fentanyl analogs in illicit substances.

Gavin W. Huang

PANOS Drug Detector

5Bay Healthcare

PANOS is a concealable point-of-care screening device that converses a smartphone into a controlled substance detector to qualify and quantify controlled substances to reduce harms. PANOS is 1/10 the size of its competitors and 1/50 the cost. It uses a patent-pending deep ultraviolet snapshotting technology combined with remote sensing and machine learning algorithms to generate test reports. It also flags dangerous samples and connect the users to correct knowledge, including digital guidance, anonymous online consultation and locations of closest naloxone kits.

Dr. James Wylde

Advanced Narcotics Analyzer for Field Applications

Greenlight Analytical Inc.

Greenlight Analytical has developed a novel chemical analyzer for measuring the amount of fentanyl, its analogues, and other toxins in illicit narcotics directly in supervised injection sites and overdose prevention clinics. The instrument takes technology that has been proven in a laboratory environment to supervised injection sites and front line medical personnel by developing innovative sampling and data analysis techniques so that it can be operated with near zero training by non-expert personnel, including community members directly, and present the user with results in a form that does not require any advanced knowledge to read and interpret.

Dr. Chris Gill

HarmCheck: Rapid, Quantitative Opioid Drug Checking by Paper Spray Mass Spectrometry (PS-MS)

Applied Environmental Research Laboratories – Vancouver Island University

Chris Gill (British Columbia) has developed a new technology with the hope of reducing the death toll from the opioid epidemic, by enabling people who use drugs to check their supply for danger before they use. HarmCheck is a lab-quality mass spectrometry test that can be deployed at harm-reduction sites, as well as in emergency rooms and by first responders for diagnostic use. It is both simple to use and very sensitive. It requires very small samples, and can simultaneously determine the identity and amounts of more than 100 opioids and other drugs in one minute. HarmCheck can also identify new drugs as they enter the street drug supply, and is easily adapted to include them as they appear. This methodology will be transformative in harm reduction drug checking.

Malcolm Eade

Raman-based Drug Analysis System

Spectra Plasmonics

Spectra Plasmonics’ proprietary sensor technology allows for accurate identification and differentiation of drug molecules at ultra-trace levels. The portable technology is used in a simple “add sample and shoot” manner that requires minimal training and provides easy-to-read results to the user. This solution gives the operator the ability to accurately assess the potency risk of drug samples in minutes as well as an ability to digitally store, track and share identification data.

Dr. Jean-Francois Masson

SERS instrument for counting molecules in injectable drugs

Université de Montréal

Our technology is based on the use of metallic nanoparticles for counting molecules in solution. When molecules interact with these nanoparticles, a unique light spectrum for each molecule is measured. We use artificial intelligence to match the spectra of the drug samples with those in a reference database. By injecting a drug sample into a cartridge containing nanoparticles, its chemical composition can be determined.

Alexander Boukin and Ari Forman

Scatr Series One


Alex Boukin and Ari Forman (Ontario) are developing a cutting-edge dual spectrometer that will challenge the standard for overdose prevention. By obtaining and analyzing both Raman and Near-Infrared spectra, the device will provide instant, real-time reporting on the identity and concentration of drug mixtures and their analogues. Utilizing a cloud-based machine learning infrastructure, the Series One will continuously update itself to reflect a constantly increasing sample size and the latest in spectroscopy science. The data will be presented in a user-friendly interface designed for health workers in the field without the need for chemical analysis training.

Dr. Dan Werb

A smartphone-based drug checking technology and data dissemination tool

Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation

Dan Werb and Drew Hall are developing a portable, self-powered drug checking technology that uses energy pulses and specialized sensors to detect toxic adulterants in street drugs. The technology then transmits data to a smartphone-based app, providing users with quantitative and qualitative analytic information about their drug sample. This information is then aggregated to provide aggregated information about trends in the composition of the street drug market. Because the technology employs disposable sensors, it can be continually adjusted to account for the emergence of new adulterants and toxic chemicals in the street drug supply.

Dr. Jeffrey C. Smith and Dr. Lynne E. Leonard

Determining Presence and Concentration of Opioids in Drug Samples Using Novel Rapid Non-Invasive Portable Mass Spectrometry Technology

Department of Chemistry, Carleton University and School of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Ottawa

Professors Smith and Leonard have been working for nearly a year on the implementation of portable mass spectrometry (MS) technology to determine the composition of street drug samples that are brought into the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre Supervised Injection Site. The MS is capable of identifying the different chemical components of a drug sample and detecting as low as one one-billionth of a gram of a drug. Methods are being developed to determine the concentration of each drug within a single droplet of a sample in less than two minutes. The technique rapidly informs the client of the type and amount of each opioid in their sample to allow decisions to be made as to subsequent use of the drug.

Challenge details

Key Dates

  • Challenge Launch: October 2nd, 2018
  • Application Deadline: February 1st,  2019
  • First Selection Phase - Semi-Finalists Announced: April 2019
  • Incubation Period: April to September 2019
  • Second Selection Phase - Finalists Announced: December 2019
  • Pilot-Phase: January to August 2020
  • Grand Prize Announced: October 2020

Important resources