Emory part of national program to fast-track COVID-19 tests

Woodruff Health Sciences Center | April 30, 2020

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Shannon McCaffrey
shannon.mccaffrey@emory.edu

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Wilbur Lam, Greg Martin, and Oliver Brand

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

The Emory University School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta 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 $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 [different] phases of development that will assist the public’s safe return to normal activities,” says Wilbur Lam, MD, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics at Emory School of Medicine and the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

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 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 American populations by the end of summer 2020 and in time for 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 is also a clinical hematologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Greg Martin, MD, is Co-Principal Investigator along with Oliver Brand, PhD, nano technology expert. 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. Dr. Martin is also a Professor with the Emory University School of Medicine and Chair of Critical Care for Grady Health System. Dr. Brand is a Professor at the Georgia Tech College of Engineering School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Executive Director for their Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology.


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 for more information.

About Emory University School of Medicine

Emory University School of Medicine is a leading institution with the highest standards in education, biomedical research and patient care, with a commitment to recruiting and developing a diverse group of students and innovative leaders. Emory School of Medicine has more than 2,800 full- and part-time faculty, 556 medical students, 530 allied health students, 1,311 residents and fellows in 106 accredited programs, and 93 MD/PhD students in one of 48 NIH-sponsored Medical Scientist Training Programs. Medical school faculty received $456.3 million in external research funding in fiscal year 2018. The school is best known for its research and treatment in infectious disease, neurosciences, heart disease, cancer, transplantation, orthopaedics, pediatrics, renal disease, ophthalmology and geriatrics.

About The Georgia Institute of Technology

Also known as Georgia Tech The Georgia Institute of Technology is one of the nation’s leading research universities — a university that embraces change while continually Creating the Next. The next generation of leaders. The next breakthrough startup company. The next lifesaving medical treatment. Georgia Tech provides a focused, technologically based education to more than 36,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The Institute has many nationally recognized programs, all top-ranked by peers and publications alike, and is ranked among the nation’s top five public universities by U.S. News & World Report. It offers degrees through the Colleges of Computing, Design, Engineering, Sciences, the Scheller College of Business, and the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts. As a leading technological university, Georgia Tech has more than 100 centers focused on interdisciplinary research that consistently contribute vital research and innovation to American government, industry, and business.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.