Bethesda, MD—Pharmacists should expect more options for successful detection of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Some of the current testing processes have resulted in high rates of incorrect results.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that it is investing $248.7 million in new technologies to address challenges associated with COVID-19 testing. NIH’s Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative has awarded contracts to seven biomedical diagnostic companies for new lab-based and point-of-care tests. The goal is to increase the number, type, and availability of tests by millions per week as early as September 2020.

“RADx moved incredibly quickly to select promising technologies through its ‘shark tank’ approach, investing in technologies that could boost America’s…COVID-19 testing capacity by millions more tests per day,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. “These technologies will help deliver faster results from labs and more and more test results within minutes at the point of care, which is especially important for settings like schools and nursing homes.”

What’s notable about the seven technologies is that they use different methods and formats and can be performed in a variety of settings to meet a range of needs:
• Four of the technologies introduce innovations in laboratory-based testing technologies including next-generation sequencing, CRISPR, and integrated microfluidic chips that could dramatically increase testing capacity, while also reducing time to results;
• Three technologies use platforms to provide nucleic acid and viral antigen tests that can give rapid results at the point of care, such as offices, manufacturing facilities, childcare centers, nursing homes, and schools;
• In addition, some of the tests offer more convenient sampling, such as saliva testing, which has been shown to be more accurate than the widely used nasopharyngeal swab sampling.

Recently, a meta-analysis published in EBioMedicine found that sputum was more accurate than nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal swabs.

The FDA has been working with NIH and RADx external advisors to provide general advice on test validation and is prioritizing the review of emergency-use authorization (EUA) for tests supported by RADx. All of these companies either have received EUA from the FDA for their COVID-19 test or have applications in process.

NIH launched RADx on April 29, 2020, shortly after receiving an emergency supplemental appropriation of $1.5 billion from Congress to support innovative technologies to make millions of rapid COVID-19 tests per week available to Americans by the Fall.

The content contained in this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Reliance on any information provided in this article is solely at your own risk.

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