TORONTO -- The federal government has received an overwhelming response from Canadian manufacturers and suppliers after unveiling a new plan to mobilize businesses to help fight the spread of COVID-19 and boost the country’s stockpile of life-saving supplies.

The industry-focused plan is meant to help bolster manufacturers, allowing them to pivot their production lines to meet the next challenge.

On Friday, Industry Minister Navdeep Bains revealed that the government would refocus innovation programs such as the Strategic Innovation Fund and National Research Council of Canada to help in the fight against COVID-19.

It’s also signed a letter of intent with three medical supply companies to help boost the supply of essential front-line medical equipment.

One of those companies, Canadian biotech firm Spartan Bioscience, is at the forefront of that effort as it works to retrofit its portable DNA machines to test for the novel coronavirus.

The company says its platform would be ideal for fast and portable detection of the deadly virus because it can be deployed in non-laboratory settings such as airports, cruise ships, military bases, and other critical points of entry.

“Now we have to turn our company on a dime to do this COVID-19 test and I think this is what we have been waiting for all these years,” Paul Lem, founder of Spartan Bioscience, told

“It’s where we can really make a difference.”

Spartan Bioscience says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed a DNA-based COVID-19 test and is currently exploring how to perform the test on its platform.

While mass production of the diagnostic product could take four to eight weeks, Minister Bains says, that if successful, the biotech company’s device could be used to detect the virus in Canadian airports.

For businesses that are ready to help immediately, Bains says the money and supports are already in place.

“We want to be over prepared and one of the ways we can do that is to build domestic capacity and mobilize our stuff to do so,” he said.

Specifically calling out to businesses who are wondering how they can help, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government wants to work with them to maximize their impact, and output.

But since a call for help went out to Canadians businesses last week, the government has already received more than 5,800 submissions offering goods and services.

Eleven million N-96 respirators, used to reduce the spread of the virus, have been received, along with orders for gloves, gowns and ventilators.

The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) are applauding the industry mobilization plan.

“Canadian manufacturers want to play a critical role in supporting Canada’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. They can and want to contribute to flattening the outbreak curve,” said CME President and CEO Dennis Darby, in a statement.

“We are pleased the government is adopting CME’s recommendation of helping to scale-up businesses that are already part of the supply chain, which will enable a rapid response from businesses.”

With files from Rachel Aiello​