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HHS Awards $56M for Radiation Countermeasure Projects

The United States has provided $56.3 million in contracts for the preparation of five potential medical countermeasures for a condition resulting from intense radiation exposure, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department announced on Wednesday (see GSN, Aug. 2).

The department's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which funds the development of experimental drugs and vaccines for weapons of mass destruction, provided money for work on acute radiation syndrome medicines. No approved treatments presently exist for the condition.

The projects might result in medicines for "bone marrow and gastrointestinal injuries from high levels of radiation, such as after denotation of an improvised nuclear device," the department said in a press release. "Bone marrow and gastrointestinal injuries are expected to account for the majority of radiation-related deaths after a nuclear denotation."

The BARDA office is seeking proposals for additional acute radiation syndrome countermeasures, "as well as improved diagnostic tools to measure the radiation dose a person has absorbed after a nuclear denotation or radiation accident," the release states. Separately, the office plans to fund the development of countermeasures for thermal burns from a nuclear blast.

“These contracts support development of products that have the potential to address urgent public health requirements for radiation medical countermeasures while also meeting other unmet medical needs,” BARDA Director Robin Robinson said in a statement. “For example, they may find day-to-day use in treating the side effects of cancer radiation treatment and chemotherapy. These advanced development contracts demonstrate what can be achieved by repurposing drugs with commercial potential to meet public health emergency requirements, and we would like to encourage other pharmaceutical companies and their collaborators to follow this approach.”

The contract recipients are Neumedicines and Cellerant Therapeutics in California, RxBio in Tennessee, Araim Pharmaceuticals in New York and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (U.S. Health and Human Services Department release, Sept. 28).

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