NIAID awards $4 million to develop anti-radiation treatments

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has issued five awards totaling $4 million to fund the development of products that eliminate radioactive materials from the human body following radiological or nuclear exposure. The awards, which were granted under Project Bioshield authorities, complement NIAID's other medical countermeasure efforts to create safe and effective products of this type.

"These new grants will help identify new drug candidates that could be acquired by the strategic national stockpile of medical countermeasures, which is available to the public after a terrorist or nuclear attack or accidental radioactive exposure," says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.

In the event of an attack by a nuclear explosive device or radiological "dirty bomb," individuals potentially could inhale, ingest or absorb through their skin radioactive atoms called radionuclides. Depending on the type of radionuclide that a person is exposed to, the particles may be excreted from the body or enter bones, organs or other tissues, which could have significant adverse health consequences. Through an initiative announced in 2005, NIAID already is working to speed the development of a series of products that can bind (chelate) internally with the radionuclides and eliminate (decorporate) them from the body. Radionuclide decorporation products currently are available in the strategic national stockpile, but NIAID is focusing on expanding the product pool, creating new treatments capable of eliminating a wider range of radionuclides, developing products that can eliminate radioactive material faster and in greater amounts; and developing products in formulations that could be distributed more easily in a mass casualty situation.

NIAID has awarded five grants totaling up to $4 million to fund work for a period of 18 months. The following principal investigators and universities are the recipients of the grants:

  • Raymond J. Bergeron, Ph.D., University of Florida, Gainesville, $1.0 million
  • Tatiana G. Levitskaia, Ph.D., Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA, $725,000
  • Scott C. Miller, Ph.D., University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, $675,000
  • Kenneth N. Raymond, Ph.D., University of California/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA, $998,325
  • Charles Timchalk, Ph.D., Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA, $599,747

"The goal of this new program is to accelerate the development of previously identified, promising compounds into effective products that could be licensed for use," says program officer Bert Maidment, Ph.D., associate director of product development in NIAID's Division of Allergy, Immunology and Transplantation.

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NIAID issued the grants under authority provided by Project Bioshield, which was signed into law in 2004. Its enactment provided federal agencies with new tools to speed research on medical countermeasures to protect Americans against chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attack.

NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health. NIAID supports basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose and treat infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, influenza, tuberculosis, malaria and illness from potential agents of bioterrorism. NIAID also supports research on basic immunology, transplantation and immune-related disorders, including autoimmune diseases, asthma and allergies.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH)--The Nation's Medical Research Agency--includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.

News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at http://www.niaid.nih.gov.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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