Platform Approaches Pivot to COVID-19 Efforts

By developing new approaches, technologies, resources and methods that can be applied to multiple disciplines or diseases, NCATS empowers the entire biomedical research community to conduct translation more efficiently. Learn more about some of the NCATS-supported projects that have quickly pivoted to address COVID-19 and the virus that causes it.

Back to A Translational Approach to Addressing COVID-19 main page.

NCATS biologist Michele Ceribelli, Ph.D., prepares samples for a high-throughput flow cytometry analysis in a 384 well plate. (Daniel Soñé Photography, LLC)

NCATS biologist Michele Ceribelli, Ph.D., prepares samples for a high-throughput flow cytometry analysis in a 384 well plate. (Daniel Soñé Photography, LLC)

Assay and Compound Libraries

It can take scientists more than a decade to develop a promising compound into an approved drug for patients. Repurposing existing drugs for new uses can potentially speed up the drug development process. NCATS’ drug repurposing programs support research at NIH and beyond to improve drug repurposing, including projects focused on COVID-19. Scientists can collaborate with NCATS to use its drug repurposing resources, including assay and compound libraries. In addition to creating a COVID-19-focused collection of known or suspected anti-infectious agents, NCATS scientists have built a new data portal that the biomedical research community can use to access SARS-CoV-2 assay and screening data to inform and accelerate their own projects. Visit the Open Science Data Portal.

Tissue Chips to Test the Safety and Efficacy of Antiviral Therapies

Approximately 30 percent of promising medications fail in human clinical trials because they are determined to be toxic — despite promising preclinical studies in animal and cell models. Tissue chips — small, 3D bioengineered devices that model human organs — could improve drug testing and development by allowing scientists to predict more accurately how safe and effective drugs are before they are tested in people. Researchers are starting to investigate whether tissue chips could help speed up the development of COVID-19 treatments. For example, a research team — supported in part by NCATS — that developed a lung-on-a-chip to study influenza infection and its use for drug screening has been able to rapidly pivot to testing existing antiviral therapies for their potential to treat COVID-19.

To help address COVID-19, GoDx, Inc., an NCATS SBIR-supported company, will test and clinically validate a rapid, instrument-free novel coronavirus test that builds on its NCATS-funded technology. (Xiao Jiang, GoDx, Inc.)

To help address COVID-19, GoDx, Inc., an NCATS SBIR-supported company, will test and clinically validate a rapid, instrument-free novel coronavirus test that builds on its NCATS-funded technology. (Xiao Jiang, GoDx, Inc.)

Small Businesses’ Translational Technologies

NCATS supports small business programs that serve as an engine for creating new approaches for developing therapeutics and diagnostics. NCATS-funded small businesses often develop translational technologies that could have broad applications. For instance, NCATS-funded GoDiagnostics (GoDx) developed a paper-based test for rapidly detecting diarrheal disease and now, with additional funding, it is adapting its technology platform for COVID-19. GoDx is developing a quick, simple and inexpensive approach that could detect the novel coronavirus from nasopharyngeal or saliva samples in less than 30 minutes. The test requires no instruments, so it could be used in a variety of settings. GoDx expects to complete data collection and analysis this summer and, if successful, submit an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for market clearance. Read more about GoDx’s platform technology.

Innovating Solutions to Speed Diagnostics and Treatments

The NCATS Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Program exists to support a network of academic research institutions in their development of innovative solutions, including diagnostics and treatments, and CTSA hub institutions have quickly harnessed their expertise and resources to address this public health emergency. The University of Rochester CTSA Program hub is one example. It is rapidly adapting previous research to develop a potential diagnostic test that would require just a few drops of blood to detect the fast-spreading COVID-19 virus. The current research grew out of a past project in which a finger-stick test was developed that can detect immunity to more than 50 strains of the flu from just a few drops of blood. Read more about this research.

Learn more: See how NCATS-supported collaborations speed COVID-19 research.