NIH Selects 7 COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests in ‘Shark Tank’ Competition

Information on the 7 companies selected thus from the NIH Shark tank competition which is offering $250 million in funding for companies that have prospects of developing rapid tests by the Autumn of 2020.  

After scrutinizing several dozen submissions the National Institutes of Health has selected its first seven projects that will move on to a new phase of manufacturing and scale-up. Nearly nearly a quarter of a billion dollars is available to these firms to scale.  

NIH Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) Initiative for COVID-19

The NIH’s Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics initiative, or RADx, was launched in late April, 2020 with the goal of providing millions of new coronavirus tests to the public by September. This includes high-throughput laboratory hardware capable of processing hundreds of samples per day as well as smaller machines designed for rapid testing in the field. 

From more than 650 applications, the most promising 100 were put through a one-week assessment of their technology and feasibility. Thirty-one made the cut, and entered Phase 1 of the process: four to six weeks of deeper validation work and reviews conducted by a panel of experts.  

These companies will graduate to Phase 2 and a final series of evaluations before clinical trials, fast-tracked regulatory approvals and $248.7 million in new funding.  

“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,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. 

Three tests will focus on providing in-person results in under a half-hour:  

  • Mesa Biotech’s hand-held Accula test, with a single-use, RT-PCR cartridge;  
  • Quidel’s Sofia antigen test kit, as an electronic, lateral flow immunoassay;  
  • Talis Biomedical’s Talis One viral RNA test, employing loop-mediated isothermal amplification, or LAMP.  

Four are intended for the lab:  

  • Ginkgo Bioworks’ (describe)  50,000 tests per day in September and 100,000 per day before the end of the year.  
  • Helix OpCo (describe)  plans to ship bulk, standardized kits for the collection of nasal swabs by public health departments, healthcare systems and employers to move tens of thousands of samples to labs for processing. 
  • Fluidigm (describe)  will primarily focus on saliva-based samples, using its microfluidic chip platform. It aims to provide tens to hundreds of thousands of new tests per day this fall. 
  • Mammoth Biosciences (describe)  looks to wield CRISPR technology to provide a simple, faster coronavirus lab test compared to typical PCR diagnostics. Co-founded by genome editing pioneer Jennifer Doudna, the company was also recently tapped by GlaxoSmithKline to develop a hand-held diagnostic. 

The RADx initiative funnels companies through a competitive selection process. (NIH) 

“The RADx initiative has enabled some of the nation’s most creative biomedical device inventors to ramp up development of their testing technologies at unprecedented speed,  innovations selected to date represent the diverse types of promising technologies that will serve the nation’s testing needs.” said NIH Director Francis Collins.  

More than 20 companies are still engaged in RADx’s Phase 1, and will be considered for Phase 2 awards in the coming weeks, according to the NIH, with dozens more still moving through the funnel behind them. 


Additional Resources/ Summary of Companies:

  • Profiles of the 7 winning companies.  
  • Author and Publisher information. 

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