The National Institutes of Health announced Friday that it is investing $248.7 million in new technologies that should help ease some of the country’s problems with Covid-19 testing.
The NIH launched the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) in April after it received an emergency supplemental appropriation of $1.4 billion from Congress. There was an “overwhelming response” to the department’s call for new technology, the NIH said. It received more than 650 applications.
The initiative gives contracts to seven biomedical testing companies that should significantly increase the number and kinds of tests available as early as September. The demand for tests is estimated to be millions more per day than what is currently available, the NIH said.
The seven companies that got the contracts use different approaches to testing. Four of the technologies should speed up and increase the capacity of lab testing, using next generation sequencing methods. Three of the technologies use platforms that should give more rapid results in point-of care-settings like in childcare centers, nursing homes, schools and workplaces. Some of these new tests should also be easier to use than the current nasal swab, and will use saliva instead.
The seven companies that have been awarded contracts are Mesa Biotech, Quidel, Talis Biomedical, which all provide point-of-care tests, and Ginkgo Bioworks, Helix OpCo, Fluidigm and Mammoth Biosciences, which have laboratory tests.
All the companies that have won these contracts either have emergency use authorization from the FDA for their technology or their applications are in process, according to the NIH.
“This is an exciting milestone,” said Bruce J. Tromberg, director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and a leader of RADx Tech, said in a release.
“It will increase US testing capacity exponentially over the next few months. These and other technologies emerging from our RADx pipeline will guide patient care and inform public health measures to stop the spread of the virus and leave us better equipped to address future pathogens and other diseases.”