Emory-led collaborative puts COVID tests to test

Emory University recently opened its newest initiative aimed at knocking out COVID-19 and its variants. The facility located at 59 Executive Park in Brookhaven is home to a team of researchers who are testing the accuracy and safety of tests designed to detect COVID-19 and variants as well as provide tests for the general public. 

Thanks to a $15.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Emory, Georgia Tech and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta have come together to facilitate the NIH’s Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) program, which selects and tests the most promising COVID diagnostic tools and then helps them move quickly through the development and commercialization pipeline. The goal is to make available simple tests Americans can use at home, a physician’s office or other non-hospital settings.

“As COVID is evolving, we are evolving with it,” says Greg Martin, MD, MSc, one of the Atlanta team’s three principal investigators and professor of pulmonary and critical care with the Emory School of Medicine Department of Medicine and chair of critical care for the Grady Health System.

“Now, more than ever, accurate, fast, easy-to-use and widely accessible tests are necessary to blunt the pandemic and safely return to a more normal life,” Martin says.

Early in the pandemic, Emory, Children’s and Georgia Tech were selected by the NIH to lead the national effort in test validation and verification. The initiative is one of five NIH-funded point-of-care technology centers in the nation selected to participate in RADx.

“It is vital that we continue this work,” says Wilbur Lam, MD, pediatric hematologist and oncologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and professor at the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University. “COVID is showing an alarming ability to adapt and spread. Fortunately, we have innovation and ingenuity on our side as we battle each surge of this virus.” 

While the facility celebrated its official opening on April 27, the collaboration has been up and running since last year. “The RADx program has enrolled nearly 10,000 adult and pediatric participants,” says Martin. “We’ve built an important database that will enable us to develop ‘multi-flex tests’ as a next step, so that people can use these tests in their homes to determine if their symptoms are due to flu, COVID or something else.”

Anyone who has symptoms and has not yet been tested can schedule a time to visit the new Emory testing site at 59 Executive Park South, Atlanta, GA 30329. As part of the study, all individuals will receive a COVID-19 PCR test at no cost and may be asked to provide additional samples (nasal or oral swabs or saliva). Participants will also receive a $50 gift card as compensation for their time. Standard COVID-19 results are usually available within 24 to 48 hours. Appointments take approximately 30 minutes and can be scheduled online here.

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