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Hodder and WV team receive $4.78 million NIH RADX grant to scale up COVID-19 testing in West Virginia communities

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - A $4.78 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was recently awarded to principal investigator Sally Hodder, MD, to increase testing for the novel coronavirus (SARS CoV-2) throughout West Virginia.   

“Testing is critically important to bring the SARS CoV-2 epidemic in West Virginia under control,” said Hodder. This project is made possible through the teamwork of the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science (WVCTSI) staff and faculty and by  strong partnerships that include the State of West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG), the West Virginia Practice-Based Research Network, the West Virginia Primary Care Association, the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, and the West Virginia Comprehensive Cancer Control Coalition.

"We need to understand the barriers to and facilitators to testing in order to best protect and serve our most precious resource -- our people," explained LTC Mark Houck of the West Virginia National Guard. "This project will help us do just that."

This initiative will also support culturally competent SARS CoV-2 testing in West Virginia communities of color. Led by the Partnership of African American Churches (PAAC), a Mobile Testing Unit staffed by persons of color will provide testing and COVID-19 related education. “Enabling COVID-19 testing among African-American communities that is conducted by culturally competent, trained personnel is critical to controlling this epidemic,” said Rev. James Patterson, the CEO of PAAC.

To address development of effective strategies for diagnosis of SARS CoV-2, the NIH launched an ambitious program, Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostic (RADx), on April 29, 2020. The awarded grant falls under the RADx-Underserved Populations (RADx-UP), one of four components of RADx, and addresses development of testing strategies and applications of emerging diagnostic advances in real-world settings.

Hodder advised, “We are excited to join forces with our community partners across the state to understand how SARS CoV-2 testing can be enhanced and used to control this epidemic.” Stacey Whanger, MPH, previously the assistant director of the WV Practice-Based Research Network with WVCTSI, will serve as the WV RADx-UP project director.

The grant will build upon WVCTSI’s long-standing efforts to address the consistent underrepresentation of rural populations in health research. WVCTSI has been working over the past eight years to build a robust infrastructure along key partners throughout the state as well as to build trust, an essential component of effective collaboration.  

Energized by a sense of urgency and responsibility, these partners will collectively be taking steps to enhance SARS CoV-2 testing among rural primary care offices and to intensify testing through mobile vans in areas forecasted to experience near-term increases in COVID-19 incidence. Critical to the development of incidence prediction has been a multi-disciplinary team that includes Adam Halasz, PhD, and Casian Pantea, PhD, (WVU Department of Mathematics), Brian Hendricks, PhD, (WVU School of Public Health) and Wes Kimble, MPA (WVCTSI).

Central to the state’s vulnerability to COVID-19 morbidity and mortality is the high prevalence of obesity, cardiovascular disease including hypertension, chronic lung disease, diabetes mellitus, and cancer. Additionally, WV is among the three states having the highest proportion of persons >age 65 years (20%), the age group most at risk for severe COVID-19 and death.

West Virginia has the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation, therefore, an important cross-cutting theme of this project is ensuring persons with substance use disorder are included in all proposed strategies to increase SARS CoV-2 testing.   

Effective testing is essential to controlling the COVID-19 epidemic in West Virginia and minimizing hospitalizations and deaths due to this virus.  This new funding will facilitate strategies to increase availability and uptake of SARS CoV-2 testing among West Virginians.

“This initiative is extremely important in helping us to better understand COVID-19 in West Virginia. By building on strong partnerships, this team is developing a program that will implement and analyze meaningful interventions for some of our most vulnerable populations,” said Clay Marsh, vice president and executive dean for WVU Health Sciences and West Virginia coronavirus czar.

To learn more, please visit

Award Number:   U54GM104942-05S3

Contact: Dalia Elsaid, WVCTSI Communications Specialist -