News / Edmonton

Post-doc duo invents a faster method of testing water for E-coli

The new hand held test is designed to give people confidence that the water they're drinking is clean

Amir Reza Sohrabi (left) and his wife Parmiss Mojir Shaibani (right) invented a device that can test for clean water in under an hour.

Kevin Tuong / Edmonton Freelance

Amir Reza Sohrabi (left) and his wife Parmiss Mojir Shaibani (right) invented a device that can test for clean water in under an hour.

Growing up in Iran, Amirreza Sohrabi and Parmiss Mojir Sohrabi learned the importance of clean drinking water.

“Water is always an issue in Iran, it’s not a country with abundant water sources so that inspired us to do something about it,” Parmiss said.

So the two post-doctoral students, who are partners both inside and outside the lab, pooled their efforts to create a quicker and more accessible way to test water for E-coli.

Their new hand-held device can test for E-coli, one of the most common water contaminants that can also make people sick, within an hour.

They had started working on the device five years ago while they were still PhD students and have now formed their own company called Roshan Water Solutions.

“We realized that the technology we are working on has potential to be taken out of the lab and make a difference into people’s lives,” Parmiss said.

The standard method for testing water is taking samples and then transporting them to a lab where the tests can take two days to produce results.

“The standard method is reliable and well practiced but the two-day delay can cause a lot of problems," Amirreza said.

Their prototype consists of two parts, the reader that shows the results and a disposable cartridge, which takes samples of water.

They hope to have the final version of the device ready in two years.

Working together

Amirreza and Parmiss got married and moved to Canada six years ago. They said working together has been a blessing.

“We kind of know each other very well. We know the weaknesses, we know the strengths of each other our habits, especially in startup culture, when you are the only two people doing everything yourself at the beginning, having that chemistry and understanding is very important,” Amirreza said.

“Amir is the analytical side of things, I’m the creative side of the brain right now.” said Parmiss. “It makes a lot of things easier and there is that trust, understanding and communication that comes with being a couple.”

Interest from province

Amirreza said the government of Alberta has expressed interest in their device.

“When we get our second prototype done in the next four months we are going to get their help and unveil the prototype to them," he said.

Although things seem to be working out for them, they are still figuring out the business side of things for their company.

“We are material engineers, that’s our expertise,” Parmiss said. “(To run a company) we have had to wear a lot of hats and not many of them are our forte so that’s been a challenge.”

Once the device is ready to hit markets, the cost of the reader will range from $150 to $300 whereas the disposable cartridge will cost anywhere between $15 to $30.

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