The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced today that it is investing $248.7 million in new technologies to address challenges with COVID-19 testing.
The “Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics” (RADx) initiative awarded contracts to seven biomedical diagnostic companies to support lab-based and point-of-care tests that could significantly increase the number, type and availability of tests by millions per week as early as September 2020, according to a news release.
Four of the selected technologies offer innovations in laboratory-based testing, including next-generation sequencing, CRISPR and integrated microfluidic chips for increasing testing capacity and throughput while reducing the time needed to receive results.
Remaining are three point-of-care technologies that provide nucleic acid and viral antigen tests that can give rapid results in locations such as offices, manufacturing facilities, childcare centers, nursing homes and schools. Some of the tests offer more convenient sampling, such as saliva testing.
NIH said that it has been working with the FDA and external advisors for RADx to garner advice on test validation and prioritize the review of the tests the initiative supports for emergency use authorization (EUA). Today, the companies selected by NIH either received EUA or have applications in process.
“RADx moved incredibly quickly to select promising technologies through its ‘shark tank’ approach, investing in technologies that could boost America’s best-in-the-world COVID-19 testing capacity by millions more tests per day,” U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a news release. “These technologies will help deliver faster results from labs and more and more test results within minutes at the point of care, which is especially important for settings like schools and nursing homes.”
NIH launched RADx on April 29 after receiving an emergency supplemental appropriation of $1.5 billion from Congress to support technological innovations in an effort to increase testing capabilities in the U.S.
“The RADx initiative has enabled some of the nation’s most creative biomedical device inventors to ramp up development of their testing technologies at unprecedented speed,” added NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins. “The innovations selected to date represent the diverse types of promising technologies that will serve the nation’s testing needs.”
These seven companies received NIH funding for their COVID-19 testing innovations:
- Ginkgo Bioworks, Boston
- Helix OpCo, San Mateo, California
- Fluidigm, South San Francisco, California
- Mammoth Biosciences, Inc., South San Francisco, California
On top of the increase in testing capacity that the U.S. is seeking through these investments, HHS announced today that more than 59 million COVID-19 tests have been completed nationally, registering tests at an average of over 810,000 per day over the past week.
Over the past month, the percentage of lab tests completed within three days came in at 45% and, over the past week, that number moved up to 56%.
“We continue to see signs of progress across the country and across the Sunbelt,” HHS assistant secretary for health Dr. Brett Giroir said in a release. “We have hot spots in which we are aggressively intervening, but our message is clear and the Administration is in alignment: We can control outbreaks by avoiding crowded indoor spaces, like bars and restaurants. It is critically important to wear face masks and practice good hand hygiene.
“All of these actions, along with deployments of surge testing and public health strike teams to hotspot areas, are beginning to show lower prevalence of the virus.”