(KERO) — 23ABC listened in on an in-depth virtual presentation about COVID testing and how the process evolved over the course of the pandemic depending on new mandates and demand from the public.
One present explained how COVID-19 was different from most viruses in that the need for testing was growing rapidly. It was all part of a process called Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADX).
"So it started way back in the beginning of the pandemic, where the NIH said, 'Wow, we don't have any easy to use tests out there for COVID-19.' This new disease we have PCR testing, but what we really want is to get these tests. We want to get them at the point of care. We want to get them ideally even at the home," explained Dr. Wilbur Lam with W. Paul Bowers Research. "So they developed what they called this shark tank-like process where there was rapid assessment and rapid validation. And then larger scale clinical tests that ultimately help the NIH decide which technologies to scale up, up in devote millions and millions of dollars and hopefully compress the timeline of product development that usually takes 10 years down to a year. That was really the goal."
Dr. Lam also explained that through a joint project between W. Paul Bowers Research, Emory University, and Georgia Tech they were able to help get the Food and Drug Administration to authorize the first over-the-counter and fully at-home test for COVID.
They were also able to create 21 different types of COVID-19 testing technology.
Through their research, they learned that most of the virus is actually found in the nose, which is why a nasal swab is the most effective for testing.
Although testing technology upgrades were technically done after 2020 they had to go back to the drawing board when variants started to appear.
They are now working towards tests that can detect specific variants and creating enough tests to help meet President Joe Biden's goals for testing nationwide.
Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADX) Overview
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx®) initiative to speed innovation in the development, commercialization, and implementation of technologies for COVID-19 testing. Accurate, fast, easy-to-use, and widely accessible testing is required before the nation can safely return to normal life.
The RADx initiative is a national call for scientists and organizations to bring their innovative ideas for new COVID-19 testing approaches and strategies. Funded projects include new applications of existing technologies that make tests easier to use, easier to access, and more accurate. At the same time, NIH is seeking opportunities to move more advanced diagnostic technologies swiftly through the development pipeline toward commercialization and broad availability — with the goal of making millions of tests per week available to Americans, particularly those most vulnerable to and/or disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and having even more tests available in time for the 2020–2021 flu season.
NIH is working to expand testing development and distribution across the country, in partnership with sibling and other government organizations such as the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Through this effort, we will strive to better understand the range of testing methods and approaches through engagement with specific communities, including those in underserved areas and with vulnerable populations.