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HHS Provides $22M for Biomarkers for Radiation Tests

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Department of Health and Human Services through its special projects research arm has awarded a total of $35 million to several universities and companies to fund development of biomarker technologies that could determine how much radiation a person has absorbed after radiological incidents such as a 'dirty' bomb or a nuclear explosion.

Those awards include $22 million for gene expression and protein expression biomarker-based tools that could be used in the field.

The funding, which could reach up to $400 million over five years, will support research at Duke University, Arizona State University, Stanford University, Meso Scale Diagnostics, SRI International, and Visca, among others.

HHS said that Duke, ASU, and Visca, will use the funds for technologies based on gene expression biomarkers, and Meso Scale Diagnostics, Stanford, and SRI will use the grants to conduct studies of protein expression biomarkers.

The money was granted through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), and it includes $3.7 million for Duke; $3.4 million for Visca; $3.7 million for SRI; $3.1 million for ASU; $4.6 million for Stanford; and $3.5 million for Meso Scale.

Over the first year, these institutes and companies will test how accurately these biomarkers can test radiation levels in a person, and they will determine if the devices that they propose using measure the biomarkers effectively. If those studies are successful, they will then develop prototypes of portable devices that could be used by first responders in the field to test radiation absorption.

Having a precise measure of radiation exposure will help responders to determine the appropriate treatment for damaging ionizing radiation, which can kill cells, said HHS.

To develop these devices, these researchers will use the US Food and Drug Administration's Investigational Device Exemption process, which allows the device to be used in a clinical study in order to generate safety and effectiveness data required for pre-market approval or submission to FDA.

If these devices are approved by FDA in the future, they may be eligible for procurement by the US government.

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