Wilbur Lam accepts the Corporate Partnership of the Year award on behalf of the ACME POCT team during the Emory University Office of Technology Transfer annual celebration April 14. Lam co-led a team across Emory, Georgia Tech, and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta that verified the accuracy of Covid-19 tests as part of the National Institutes of Health Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics program, or RADx. (Photo: Jess Beach)
When the National Institutes of Health needed a team to quickly evaluate coronavirus tests early in the pandemic, they turned to Emory University, Georgia Tech, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Led by the Atlanta Center for Microsystems Engineered Point-of-Care Technologies center (ACME POCT), a team of engineers, physicians, technicians, and researchers played a critical role in testing the tests to make sure they could identify Covid-19 infections and be brought to market quickly. Then they did it all again when the new omicron variant swept across the nation, making sure existing tests could detect the mutated virus.
“The timeline of this process typically takes many years, and the ambitious goal was to compress this to only one year,” said Wilbur Lam, professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering and one of the project’s leaders. “Thankfully, we were successful in this, and that’s evidenced by the fact that any one of us can buy tests at retail outlets or online, and even get a handful for free from the federal government.”
All told, NIH has invested $64 million in the center’s efforts through multiple rounds of funding. The Office of Technology Transfer cited the team’s work leading to FDA authorization for 41 diagnostic tests and a billion-test boost in the nation’s capacity to detect Covid-19.
“ACME’s role as the national test verification center for the NIH RADx program is incredibly unique in its breadth of capabilities and integration to make every step more efficient and effective than what anyone else can achieve,” said Greg Martin, professor of pulmonary and critical care in the Emory Department of Medicine and co-director of ACME POCT. “Receiving this award from OTT is a validation of what we have achieved, [and] the role of Emory, Georgia Tech, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in this deserves huge recognition.”
“The very nature of our work here over the past two years has been that of collaborations, relationships, helping others,” said Julie Sullivan, the program director and chief operating officer of the effort. “Having the partnership aspect of our efforts — what is at the very core of what we do — recognized is very fulfilling, and we’re so grateful for the partnerships both internally at Emory and externally.”
The last two years of experience has laid a marker with regulators and companies about the team’s capabilities, so now they’re looking beyond Covid-19 to build new partnerships for promising diagnostic technologies, Lam said.
“This is extremely exciting for our Emory-based diagnostics developers and inventors, as our center can accelerate translation and commercialization of their technologies, and also for the medical device industry, many of whom are now in our network and recognize our capabilities and assets,” he said.
Lam, Sullivan, and Martin joined other honorees at a celebration of technology and innovation April 14. Read more about their work and what’s next on the Emory Technology Transfer Blog.