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Emory part of national program to fast-track COVID-19 tests

Woodruff Health Sciences Center | April 30, 2020

Link to original Emory News article

A trio of Atlanta health care and research institutions will play a leading role in helping to evaluate potential COVID-19 tests as part of a new federal initiative designed to rapidly transform potentially promising technology into widely accessible diagnostic tools to detect the virus.

The Emory University School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and the Georgia Institute of Technology are teaming up through the Atlanta Center for Microsystems Engineered Point-of-Care Technologies (ACME POCT).

The Atlanta Center was selected by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to evaluate COVID-19 detection tests utilizing a $1.5 billion investment from federal stimulus funding under a newly launched Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative. This initiative will infuse funding into early, innovative technologies to speed development of rapid and widely accessible COVID-19 testing with a mandate that tests be deployed to Americans this fall.

“The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) is urging all scientists and inventors with a rapid testing technology to compete in a 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,” says Wilbur Lam, MD, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics at Emory School of Medicine and the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

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 receive a $10 to 20 million supplement to work closely with relevant technology developers and the medical diagnostics industry across the country to meet the deadline. 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. The goal is to make millions of accurate and easy-to-use tests per week available to American populations by the end of summer 2020 and in time for flu season.

The Center will operate on the frontlines assessing, validating and conducting clinical trials as well as advising in manufacturing and scale-up of relevant COVID-19 tests. They expect hundreds of technology developers and companies to apply for the RADx program and will be involved in clinical validation and shepherding successful projects to meet this national need, making Children’s, Emory and Georgia Tech frontline warriors in this effort.

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 evaluate the tests for the NIBIB as they urgently solicit proposals.

Lam is the Principal Investigator of ACME POCT and is also a clinical hematologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Greg Martin, MD, is Co-Principal Investigator along with Oliver Brand, PhD, nano technology expert. 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. Dr. Martin is also a Professor with the Emory University School of Medicine and Chair of Critical Care for Grady Health System. Dr. Brand is a Professor at the Georgia Tech College of Engineering School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Executive Director for their Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology.