NIH awards $31 million to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the Emory University School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics and the Georgia Institute of Technology have received a $31 million supplement from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the largest supplement awarded to any participant in the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) program. RADx is a federal initiative designed to rapidly transform early, innovative technologies into widely accessible COVID-19 diagnostic testing.

In April, it was announced that Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the Emory University School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics and the Georgia Institute of Technology were selected to lead the national effort in testing validation through the Atlanta Center for Microsystems Engineered Point-of-Care Technologies (ACME POCT).

“This is the largest NIH grant ever to be received by Children’s or Emory in a single budget cycle,” says Lucky Jain, MD, Chief Academic Officer of Children’s and Chair of the Emory University School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics. “The one-time NIH supplement covers the course of one year, which means we have a lot of exciting and fast work ahead of us. We are confident in our team’s ability to make this a huge success and thrilled to see them at the frontline, leading the way in such a historic initiative.” 

As one of only five NIH-funded point-of-care technology centers in the nation within the Point-of-Care Technologies Research Network (POCTRN), ACME POCT will use the $31 million supplement to lead testing validation and work closely with partners across the country – including relevant technology developers and others in the medical diagnostics industry – to meet a short deadline. The goal of the project is to make millions of accurate and easy-to-use tests per week available by the end of summer 2020 and in time for flu season.

“We will vet and whittle down thousands of COVID-19 diagnostic tests the NIH will receive from across the country to 10 to 20 meritorious projects, which our Center will shepherd toward manufacturing and scale up with the objective of national deployment this fall,” says Wilbur Lam, MD, PhD, Pediatric Hematologist and Oncologist at Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s and Principal Investigator of ACME POCT.

The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) is urging all scientists and inventors with a rapid testing technology to compete in the national COVID-19 testing challenge for a share of up to $500 million over all different phases of development that will assist the public’s safe return to normal activities. The technologies will be put through a highly competitive, rapid three-phase selection process to identify the best candidates for at-home or point-of-care tests for COVID-19.

ACME POCT fosters the development and commercialization of microsystems (microchip-enabled, biosensor-based, microfluidic) diagnostic tests that can be used outside the traditional hospital setting, in places such as the home, community or doctor’s office. Lam and his team will lead testing validation for the NIH as they urgently solicit proposals.

The project has multiple principal investigators, including Lam, Associate Professor of the Emory University School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics and the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University; Greg Martin, MD, Professor with the Emory University School of Medicine and Chair of Critical Care for Grady Health System; and Oliver Brand, PhD, Professor at the Georgia Tech College of Engineering School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Executive Director for the Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology. Together, the team makes up one of the primary point-of-care centers in the nation dedicated to developing microsystems with sensors, smart phones and wearable technologies.

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