Children’s, the Emory University School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics and Georgia Institute of Technology have received a total of $54 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) program. This includes an initial $31 million supplement awarded in May 2020—one of the largest grants awarded to any participant in the RADx program. RADx is a federal initiative designed to rapidly transform early, innovative technologies into widely accessible COVID-19 diagnostic testing.
In April 2020, Children’s, Emory University and Georgia Tech were selected to lead the national effort in testing validation and verification through the Atlanta Center for Microsystems Engineered Point-of-Care Technologies (ACME POCT). The center has since participated in verifying more than 40 tests for the NIH, including an at-home test that received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“The $31 million award was the largest NIH grant ever to be received by Children’s or Emory University in a single budget cycle,” says Lucky Jain, MD, MBA, Chief Academic Officer at Children’s and Chair of the Emory University Department of Pediatrics. “With a total of $54 million, the team will continue their exciting and fast work, helping the country’s safe return to work and school. We are thrilled to see them on the front line, 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, ACME POCT leads testing verification and works closely with partners across the country—including relevant technology developers and others in the medical diagnostics industry—to make millions of easy-to-use tests available.
“We are vetting thousands of COVID-19 diagnostic tests the NIH receives from across the country to a smaller group of meritorious projects, which our center shepherds toward manufacturing and scale up for use at home or in the clinic,” says Wilbur Lam, MD, PhD, a Pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s and Principal Investigator of ACME POCT.
The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) in April 2020 urged scientists and inventors with rapid testing technology to compete in the national COVID-19 testing challenge to support overall phases of development to assist the public’s safe return to normal activities. The technologies were put through a highly competitive, rapid three-phase selection process to identify the best candidates for at-home or other point-of-care use.
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.
The project has multiple principal investigators, including Dr. Lam, who is also a Professor at Emory University and the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech; Greg Martin, MD, MSc, Professor at Emory University and Chair of Critical Care for Grady Health System; and Oliver Brand, PhD, Professor in the Georgia Tech College of Engineering School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Executive Director of 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, smartphones and wearable technologies.
Research reported in this article was supported by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health under awards U54 EB027690-02S1 and U54 EB027690-03.
Lucky Jain, MD, MBA, became the Chief Academic Officer at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in 2017. He also serves as George W. Brumley Jr. Professor, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine.
Wilbur Lam, MD, PhD, is a Pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, as well as a Professor at Emory University School of Medicine and Georgia Institute of Technology. He is also Principal Investigator at the Atlanta Center for Microsystems Engineered Point-of-Care Technologies (ACME POCT).