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US National Institutes of Health to support radical approaches to nationwide COVID-19 testing and surveillance. RADx-rad program will fund non-traditional and repurposed technologies to combat the current pandemic. (Examples of these projects)

NIH to support radical approaches to nationwide COVID-19 testing and surveillance

RADx-rad program will fund non-traditional and repurposed technologies to combat the current pandemic and address future viral disease outbreaks.

The National Institutes of Health has awarded over $107 million to support new, non-traditional approaches and reimagined uses of existing tools to address gaps in COVID-19 testing and surveillance. The program also will develop platforms that can be deployed in future outbreaks of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. A part of the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative, the awards from the RADx Radical (RADx-rad) program will support 49 research projects and grant supplements at 43 institutions across the United States. It will focus on non-traditional viral screening approaches, such as biological or physiological markers, new analytical platforms with novel chemistries or engineering, rapid detection strategies, point-of-care devices, and home-based testing technologies.

“To solve a problem as complicated as COVID-19, we need ideas, tools, and technologies that challenge the way we think about pandemic control,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “These awards from the RADx-rad program provide superb examples of outside-the-box concepts that will help us overcome this pandemic and give us a cadre of devices and tactics to confront future outbreaks.”

The grants will support new approaches to identifying and tracking the current SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. Examples of these projects include:

  • Development of an electrochemical biosensor in two detection devices, a diagnostic breathalyzer for instant detection of SARS-CoV-2, and an airborne detector for real-time, continuous surveillance of a large space.
  • Development of novel, safe and effective biosensing and detection technologies to spot signatures of COVID-19 from human skin or mouth.
  • Development of an innovative platform that integrates biosensing with touchscreen or other digital devices to achieve automatic, early detection and tracing of SARS-CoV-2 in real-time.
  • Development of a novel test to independently assess smell and taste function in individuals who are at high risk for contracting COVID-19.
  • Development of wastewater technologies and data collection methods for detecting and estimating SARS-CoV-2 community infection levels, which can offer advanced knowledge of community spread and allow for targeted public health protection measures.
  • Implementation of devices with integrated artificial intelligent systems for the detection, diagnosis, prediction, prognosis and monitoring of COVID-19 in clinical, community and everyday settings.
  • Characterization of the spectrum of SARS CoV-2 associated illness, including the multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).
  • Development of biomarkers and biosignatures for an algorithm utilizing artificial intelligence to predict the long-term risk of disease severity after a child is exposed to SARS-CoV-2.

Additionally, two intramural projects were supported by this initiative: a $1 million award to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences for developing barcoded screening of SARS-CoV-2; and a $200,000 award to the National Library of Medicine (NLM) for a Nationwide Early-Warning System and Data Platform to aid policy decisions for public health management of viral diseases with COVID-19 as a use case.

RADx-rad grants and supplements are supported by 11 NIH institutes and centers, including the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, the National Institute of Nursing Research, and NLM.

About the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADxSM) initiative: The RADx initiative was launched on April 29, 2020, to speed innovation in the development, commercialization and implementation of technologies for COVID-19 testing. The initiative has four programs: RADx Tech, RADx Advanced Technology Platforms, RADx Underserved Populations and RADx Radical. It leverages the existing NIH Point-of-Care Technology Research Network. The RADx initiative partners with federal agencies, including the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health, Department of Defense, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Learn more about the RADx initiative and its programs:

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit


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