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NIH RADx-rad Grants Support Investigation of Novel COVID-19 Testing and Surveillance Approaches


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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded over $107 million to support new, nontraditional approaches and reimagined uses of existing tools to address gaps in COVID-19 testing and surveillance. The program will also 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. They will focus on nontraditional viral screening approaches, such as biologic or physiologic markers, new analytic platforms with novel chemistries or engineering, rapid detection strategies, point-of-care devices, and home-based testing technologies.

Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD

Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD

“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.”

Project Examples

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 multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children
  • 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 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.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.
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