Accelerating Coronavirus Testing Solutions (A.C.T.S.)

Program Overview

By any measure, Massachusetts’ life sciences ecosystem is one of the most robust in the world. Whether you measure public or private investments, top research universities and academic medical centers, STEM education, R&D infrastructure, talent, or life science companies, Massachusetts leads the way in bringing healthcare innovations to patients. This life science community can positively and quickly continue to impact the current COVID-19 pandemic. The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center is in a unique position to accelerate this impact by identifying, supporting, and funding novel innovations and solutions for SARS-CoV-2 testing. The Center is soliciting proposals to improve testing solutions and address supply chain logistics bottlenecks during this critical time to ensure the safety of its constituents and the world.

This project call will leverage Massachusetts’ R & D capabilities and innovation infrastructure to accelerate the development of improved testing modalities and address supply chain logistical bottlenecks that hinder our ability to quickly and effectively combat and contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

Applications for the first cycle will close on October 16, 2020, at 12 pm EST and subsequent cycles will close every two weeks after that point.

Eligibility & Evaluation

Applicants can be Massachusetts-based for-profit companies or non-profit institutions, which includes research institutions, academic medical centers, and colleges and universities. Municipalities or other governmental entities are not eligible to apply.

The MLSC is requesting proposals to address the gaps that currently exist in SARS-CoV-2 testing. Projects funded under this grant may fall into one of the two priority response areas:

Development of Rapid, Innovative At-Home or Point-of-Care Testing Modalities: We aim to support testing innovations that are easier and quicker to perform and can be done by patients outside of a healthcare practitioner’s office.

  • Solutions that provide a low-cost, surveillance testing technology that can be deployed independently of CLIA approval or medical personnel oversight are encouraged. Solutions that cost less than $10 per test are of particular interest.
  • Solutions that will provide a low-cost test with greater than 75% sensitivity and ideally 95% specificity are encouraged.

Addressing Supply Chain Bottlenecks: Innovations or increased novel manufacturing capacity that can address the supply chain bottlenecks for existing platforms are encouraged to apply. The MLSC is aiming to support the development of novel technologies to address the lack of specialized plastic ware and development of generic reagents and supplies to allow labs across the Commonwealth to fully utilize and leverage their existing high throughput testing platforms. To the extent that applicants are proposing supply chain solutions to a closed system, which involves proprietary technology, applicants will need to demonstrate that they have taken into consideration the requirement for any necessary approvals from the manufacturer of the proprietary system.

An application may address a well-defined issue beyond the priority areas identified above must clearly articulate the positive impact on SARS-CoV-2 testing. Applicants are encouraged to provide solutions that significantly increase testing capacity across the Commonwealth.

Responses to this RFP will be accepted on a rolling basis and will be evaluated in two-week cycles. Applications for the first cycle will close on October 16, 2020, at 12 pm EST and subsequent cycles will close every two weeks after that point. Applications will only be accepted through the MLSC’s online application portal, found here.

Please see the RFP for full eligibility criteria.

Resources

RFP

Impact on the Ecosystem

To consider how we can return to everyday activities as safely as possible in the face of an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative that we rapidly identify infected individuals. Curbing the pandemic relies on the implementation of Testing, Tracing, and Supported Isolation (TTSI) strategies.

Currently, the Commonwealth is largely dependent on PCR tests, which requires analysis of specimens in an offsite laboratory. The development of a low cost “at home” test or point of care test is critical to further scaling up rapid SARS-CoV-2 testing. Additionally, supply chain bottlenecks are emerging for molecular testing. A whitepaper from McKinsey and Company(1) identifies RNA extraction kit manufacturing and laboratory capacity as the main limiting factors to large-scale testing. In the short term, the authors encourage maximizing and expanding laboratory capacity and exploring alternative testing protocols for the longer term. Specifically, supply chain logistics around upstream sample collection and processing are limiting steps to the interoperability of sample processing. Increased universality of sample collection and processing can aid in the management of testing capacity. These represent significant challenges that need to be considered as novel tests and technologies are developed.

The need for more rapid, scalable tests, and solutions for addressing the supply chain logistics, especially in the cases of high-throughput machines with proprietary plastic ware and reagents, is critical as the Commonwealth considers how to continue to reopen as safely as possible.

(1) Behnam, Mohammad, et al. “COVID-19: Overcoming Supply Shortages for Diagnostic Testing.” McKinsey & Company, McKinsey & Company, 15 July 2020, www.mckinsey.com/industries/pharmaceuticals-and-medical-products/our-insights/covid-19-overcoming-supply-shortages-for-diagnostic-testing

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If you have any questions regarding the application process, e-mail: COVID@Masslifesciences.com.