Emory, partners receive $31 million COVID-19 testing grant

ATLANTA – Emory University is sharing in a $31 million federal grant designed to rapidly transform innovative technologies into widely accessible COVID-19 diagnostic testing.

The supplemental award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will go to researchers at the Emory University School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the Georgia Institute of Technology. In April, it was announced that the three institutions had been selected to lead a national effort in testing validation through the Atlanta Center for Microsystems Engineered Point-of-Care Technologies (ACME POCT).

The goal of the national initiative, known as the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) program, is to make millions of accurate and easy-to-use tests available by the end of summer 2020 and in time for flu season. The award to the Atlanta center is the largest in the RADx program.

“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. 

“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, associate professor of the Emory University School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics 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, pediatric hematologist and oncologist at Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s and associate professor at 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.

Research reported in this press release was supported by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health under award number U54 EB027690-02S1.

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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