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Emory receives $15.4 million NIH grant to see if COVID tests detect variants
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Shannon McCaffrey
COVID-19 rapid test

Emory University researchers have received a $15.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to ensure COVID-19 tests are able to quickly detect new variants of concern, such as Omicron.

The award is part of 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.

Throughout the pandemic, Emory researchers, together with their partners at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Georgia Institute of Technology, have helped make COVID-19 testing accessible, affordable and accurate through the RADx program.

The additional funding comes as health officials grapple with the swift spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant,. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December awarded emergency use authorizations to two new COVID tests after they received RADx’s seal of approval. 

“As COVID is evolving, we are evolving with it,” says Greg Martin, MD, MSc, one of the Atlanta team’s three principal investigators as well as professor of pulmonary and critical care with the Emory University 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 to lead the national effort in test validation and verification through the Atlanta Center for Microsystems Engineered Point-of-Care Technologies (ACME POCT). ACME POCT is one of five NIH-funded point-of-care technology centers in the nation within the Point-of-Care Technologies Research Network (POCTRN) selected to participate in RADx. More than $64 million in NIH dollars have flowed to Atlanta institutions for their RADx work. 

“It is vital that we continue this work,” says Wilbur Lam, MD, pediatric hematologist and oncologist at Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, professor of the Emory University School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics  and 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 another surge of this virus.”

The latest NIH grant is funding work being done at the Emory School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics as well as the Department of Biochemistry.

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.

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