Atlanta Institutions Take Lead Role in Fast-Tracking COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests


Oliver Brand, executive director of IEN

Oliver Brand is co-principal investigator of the ACME POCT and executive director of Georgia Tech’s Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology.

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 promising technology into widely accessible diagnostic tools to detect the virus.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the Emory University School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics 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 portion of 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 phases of development that will assist the public’s safe return to normal activities,” said Wilbur Lam, M.D., Ph.D., pediatric hematologist and oncologist at Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s and principal investigator of ACME POCT.

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 million 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 all Americans by the end of summer 2020 and in time for the 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 also serves as 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, M.D., is co-principal investigator along with Oliver Brand, Ph.D., executive director of Georgia Tech’s Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology and a professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Together the team makes up the only point-of-care center 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.

About Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta: As the only freestanding pediatric healthcare system in Georgia, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is the trusted leader in caring for kids. The not-for-profit organization’s mission is to make kids better today and healthier tomorrow through more than 60 pediatric specialties and programs, top healthcare professionals, and leading research and technology. Children’s is one of the largest pediatric clinical care providers in the country, managing more than one million patient visits annually at three hospitals, Marcus Autism Center, the Center for Advanced Pediatrics and 20 neighborhood locations. Consistently ranked among the top children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has impacted the lives of kids in Georgia, across the United States and around the world for more than 100 years thanks to generous support from the community. Visit www.choa.org

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