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NIAID announces 25 new awards to develop radiation countermeasures

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded 25 new grants to develop new and better diagnostics and treatments for radiation exposure after a nuclear attack. Several of these grants were awarded under Project Bioshield Authority, legislation that enables NIAID within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to use a rapid award process to help stimulate research on medical countermeasures against chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) threats.

In the event of a nuclear attack, people exposed to radiation would suffer from injuries to important tissues and organs, such as the skin, lungs, blood cells, nervous system and digestive tract. The severity of these injuries would vary. Proper diagnosis and prompt treatment of those affected is a key issue.

"These 25 new awards will help seed basic science research in areas of radiation exposure after nuclear attack that are not currently being addressed," says Richard Hatchett, M.D., associate director of Radiation Countermeasures Research and Emergency Preparedness at NIAID.

In 2005 Congress identified the need to the expand research on countermeasures against CBRN threats and gave funding to HHS specifically for this purpose. HHS assigned NIAID the leadership role in managing basic research efforts to develop medical treatments and diagnostics for CBRN threats, and NIAID and the Biodefense Advanced Research and Development Authority collaborate to promote product development of promising candidate countermeasures. NIAID also works closely with the Food and Drug Administration for regulation and approval of all countermeasures developed to protect citizens against these agents.

According to Dr. Hatchett, the new awards support both focused and investigator-initiated projects intended to increase the current understanding about radiation damage to the body after a radiological or nuclear attack. Five investigators have received grants from NIAID, estimated to be up to $4 million over 18 months, via the Project BioShield Authority rapid award program, to explore methods or treatments to enhance blood platelet regeneration after radiation exposure. The investigators awarded these grants are as follows:

  • Amelia M. Bartholomew, M.D., University of Illinois at Chicago, IL
  • George Georges, M.D. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA
  • Andrei V. Gudkov, Ph.D., Cleveland Biolabs, Inc., Buffalo, NY
  • Holger Karsunky, Ph.D., Cellerant Therapeutics, Inc., San Carlos, CA
  • Kathleen E. Rodgers, Ph.D., University of Southern California, Los Angeles

In addition to the Project BioShield awards, NIAID has funded 10 investigator-initiated grants focused on improving the diagnosis and treatment of individuals exposed to radiation. These five-year awards are estimated to be up to $4 million for the first year. The recipients are as follows:

  • R. Shane Addleman, D.Sc., Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratories, Richland, WA
  • Susan M. Bailey, Ph.D., Colorado State University, Fort Collins
  • Tao Cheng, M.D., University of Pittsburgh at Pittsburgh, PA
  • David G. Kirsch, M.D., Ph.D., Duke University, Durham, NC
  • Andrei V. Gudkov, Ph.D., Roswell Park Cancer Institute Corporation, Buffalo, NY
  • James Palis, M.D., University of Rochester, NY
  • Amanda G. Paulovich, M.D., Ph.D., Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA
  • Gabor J. Tigyi, M.D., Ph.D., University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis
  • Marcel R.M. van den Brink, M.D., Ph.D., Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research, New York, NY
  • Daohong Zhou, M.D., Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston

A new area of investigation being supported by NIAID is "radiation combined injury". If a nuclear weapon attack were to occur in the United States, the wounded would also be expected to have other injuries such as burns, trauma or infections, in addition to radiation exposure. However, research in the area of radiation combined injury has been lacking.

The NIAID initiative will help stimulate research in the area of treating people with radiation combined injuries. Ten grants, estimated to be up to $2 million over five years, have been awarded to the following investigators:

  • Shyam Biswal, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD
  • Nelson J. Chao, M.D., Duke University, Durham, NC
  • John R. Fike, Ph.D., University of California San Francisco
  • M. Waleed Gaber, Ph.D., and Duane D. Miller, Ph.D., University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis
  • Juliann G. Kiang, Ph.D., Armed Forced Radiobiology Research Institute, Bethesda, MD
  • Elizabeth J. Kovacs, Ph.D., Loyola University Chicago, IL
  • James A. Lederer, Ph.D., Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA
  • David M. Rocke, Ph.D., and R. Rivkah Isseroff, M.D., University of California Davis
  • Ping Wang, M.D., Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Manhasset, NY
  • Hartmut Weiler, Ph.D., Blood Center of Wisconsin, Incorporated, Milwaukee

Through these combined efforts, NIAID and HHS hope to accelerate the development of medical countermeasures against radiation exposure to help the public health community successfully protect and treat people in the event of a nuclear terrorist attack.


Contact: Julie Wu
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

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