NIH awards $107M for radical approaches to COVID-19 testing and surveillance

NIH awards $107M for radical approaches to COVID-19 testing and surveillance

December 21, 2020

The National Institutes of Health has awarded more than $107 million to support new, non-traditional approaches and reimagined uses of existing tools to address gaps in COVID-19 testing and surveillance. The program also will develop platforms that can be deployed in future outbreaks of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.

A part of the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative, the awards from the RADx Radical (RADx-rad) program will support 49 research projects and grant supplements at 43 institutions across the United States. It will focus on non-traditional viral screening approaches, such as biological or physiological markers, new analytical platforms with novel chemistries or engineering, rapid detection strategies, point-of-care devices, and home-based testing technologies.

“To solve a problem as complicated as COVID-19, we need ideas, tools, and technologies that challenge the way we think about pandemic control,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD. “These awards from the RADx-rad program provide superb examples of outside-the-box concepts that will help us overcome this pandemic and give us a cadre of devices and tactics to confront future outbreaks.”

The grants will support new approaches to identifying and tracking the current SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. Examples of these projects include:

* Development of an electrochemical biosensor in two detection devices, a diagnostic breathalyzer for instant detection of SARS-CoV-2, and an airborne detector for real-time, continuous surveillance of a large space.

* Development of novel, safe and effective biosensing and detection technologies to spot signatures of COVID-19 from human skin or mouth.

* Development of an innovative platform that integrates biosensing with touchscreen or other digital devices to achieve automatic, early detection and tracing of SARS-CoV-2 in real-time.

* Development of a novel test to independently assess smell and taste function in individuals who are at high risk for contracting COVID-19.

* Development of wastewater technologies and data collection methods for detecting and estimating SARS-CoV-2 community infection levels, which can offer advanced knowledge of community spread and allow for targeted public health protection measures.

* Implementation of devices with integrated artificial intelligent systems for the detection, diagnosis, prediction, prognosis and monitoring of COVID-19 in clinical, community and everyday settings.

* Characterization of the spectrum of SARS CoV-2 associated illness, including the multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).

* Development of biomarkers and biosignatures for an algorithm utilizing artificial intelligence to predict the long-term risk of disease severity after a child is exposed to SARS-CoV-2.

Additionally, two intramural projects were supported by this initiative: a $1 million award to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences for developing barcoded screening of SARS-CoV-2; and a $200,000 award to the National Library of Medicine (NLM) for a Nationwide Early-Warning System and Data Platform to aid policy decisions for public health management of viral diseases with COVID-19 as a use case.

RADx-rad grants and supplements are supported by 11 NIH institutes and centers, including the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, the National Institute of Nursing Research, and NLM.

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