NC State tapped to solve logistical challenges in Covid testing

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Throughout the pandemic, the shortage of testing kits has been a persistent issue lamented by public health officials and providers across the nation. Now, researchers at N.C. State are tasked with developing a model to address logistic efficiency.

This week, researchers at the university announced they’ve received a one year, $600,000 grant from the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL) earmarked to address the logistics of Covid-19 testing kit allocation.

Specifically, the researchers plan to develop a computational model that “can be used to identify the best allocation plans for distributing test kits to hospitals, clinics and relevant state agencies.”

The hope is that by creating a model, the momentous amount of factors involved in the supply chain can be cataloged to create more efficiency over existing solutions.

According to the university, the model will be focused on the following key questions:

  • What is the optimal distribution of reagents and test kits for allocation to selected locations?
  • What test kits should be stockpiled for use in case of a second wave of Covid-19 infections?
  • How should inventory and testing capacity be positioned in order to enable both the rapid distribution of test kits and the collection, transportation, and analysis of test samples?
  • How will the system adapt to changes in patient management and testing protocols as demand for kits shifts based on patterns of new COVID cases?
  • What are the different strategies needed for the different types of test kits (molecular, antigen and antibody)?

“This is an extremely complex supply chain, with many different players and a host of variables to consider,” said Rob Handfield, a N.C. State professor of operations and supply chain management who is the principal investigator of the grant. “We are going to start by developing the model for North Carolina, and will extend this to the U.S. by the end of the project. Part of the challenge will be simply identifying all of the suppliers of test kits and materials.”

According to researchers, the prototype of the system is expected to be complete later this year for use in North Carolina, and the aim is to create a national model before June 2021.

“This space is moving and changing very rapidly, and the nature of the crisis is such that outbreaks continue to pop up and shift over time,” said Don Warsing, a N.C. State professor and co-investigator on the grant. “One challenge we’re working on is a way to dynamically, and fairly, allocate limited supplies to the points of greatest need.”

In addition to NIIMBL, which is a public-private partnership focused on accelerating biopharmaceutical innovation and developing more rapid manufacturing capabilities, the project is also supported by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Original Article Source: Triangle Business Journal