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NIH Launches $1.5B Initiative to Accelerate SARS-CoV-2 Diagnostics

NEW YORK – The US National Institutes of Health on Wednesday announced a new initiative to accelerate the development and commercialization of testing technologies for COVID-19.

The initiative, called Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx), is being provided $1.5 billion in stimulus funding. An NIH spokesperson said the money comes from the Paycheck Protection Program and Healthcare Enhancement Act, which provides $484 billion in funding for various efforts directed at the coronavirus pandemic, including $25 billion for work to expand COVID-19 testing. The bill was signed into law on April 24.

The NIH said that along with developing new technologies, it is seeking opportunities to move advanced diagnostic technologies toward commercialization and broad availability. The institute will work with the US Food and Drug Administration, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the US Department of Health and Human Services' Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority on the initiative.

As part of the effort, NIH is holding a national COVID-19 testing challenge, and all scientists and researchers with a rapid testing technology are encouraged to compete for a share of up to $500 million over all phases of development. A rapid three-phase selection process will identify those technologies that are the best candidates for at-home or point-of-care tests for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Finalists will be paired with technical, business, and manufacturing experts to facilitate success, the institute said. Technologies that are further along in development will be put on a separate track and advanced to an appropriate commercialization process.

The goal is to make millions of accurate and easy-to-use tests per week available to the American public by the end of the summer with even more in time for the flu season, NIH said.

"We need all innovators, from the basement to the boardroom, to come together to advance diagnostic technologies, no matter where they are in development," NIH Director Francis Collins said in a statement. "Now is the time for that unmatched American ingenuity to bring the best and most innovative technologies forward to make testing for COVID-19 widely available."

NIH added that RADx will expand the Point-of-Care Technologies Research Network, which was established by NIBIB a few years ago and provides funding and support to enhance technology designs at crucial development stages.

POCTRN supports investigators from multiple universities and businesses through five technology hubs at Emory University/Georgia Institute of Technology; Johns Hopkins University; Northwestern University; the University of Massachusetts Medical School; and the Consortia of Improving Medicine with Innovation & Technology at Harvard Medical School/ Massachusetts General Hospital.