BARDA’s $60M plan to protect against radiation poisoning

DOTmed, Oct. 30, 2011

Federal officials announced they were funding the development of five drugs designed to protect people from the horrors of radiation poisoning. The government’s also financing studies to develop an improved version of another drug to treat people exposed to radioactive particles that could be released during a so-called dirty bomb attack.

Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, announced the roughly $60 million in funding in a series of releases Wednesday and Thursday.

About $56.3 million will go toward five contracts for a variety of drug companies and scientists working on countermeasures for acute radiation syndrome, or radiation sickness. When exposed to high doses of ionizing radiation — such as from a nuclear bomb blast — fast-reproducing cells in the gut, bone marrow, and lungs can be destroyed, which can in turn lead to internal bleeding, a depressed immune system and death over the following days or even weeks.

Winners of contracts include Neumedicines Inc., which got a $17 million award to study recombinant human interleukin-12 (rhuIL-12). Also called HemaMax, a 2008 BARDA-funded study showed it might be able to protect bone marrow from radiation.

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