14 Sep Medical College getting $18.1 million to study radiation damage treatments
Wauwatosa, Wis. – The Medical College of Wisconsin has been awarded an $18.1 million federal grant to establish a Center for Medical Countermeasures against Radiation, an effort to take the college’s research and develop new methods of treating organs damaged by radiation.
The institute is one of seven centers being funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to establish a plan for identifying and treating victims in the event of a terrorist attack involving radiation. The grant will be distributed over the next five years.
John Moulder, host director of the new center and a professor of radiation oncology at the Medical College, said the center was first conceived following Sept. 11 when the threat of terrorist nuclear attack was no longer a remote possibility. Government officials were looking for new techniques to identify radiation exposures, protect first responders in the area and treat people in the area during the attack.
Research areas such as the Medical College are qualified to provide treatment, Moulder said, because it runs parallel to some of the work already being done in their labs. The college has been working on medications that can help patients suffering from cancer and bone marrow transplants, where continuous radiation is part of their treatment.
While the research has been unable to transfer from lab to clinic so far and hasn’t attracted pharmaceutical attention — “I doubt there would be much commercial use in a drug for an event we hope never happens,” Moulder said – the Department of Defense is interested in stockpiling the drugs.
Moulder said the first project of the center will be adapting existing animal models for the treatments, using large doses of radiation to simulate the effects of a nuclear bomb and continuous low-level doses to simulate contamination by a dirty bomb. The key factor in working on the treatments, Moulder said, is to make them as simple as possible to understand and use.
“We want something in a hospital [doctors] won’t need six months to use É on the shelf in the pharmacy where physicians can pick them up and see how to use them.” Moulder said.
To achieve that ease of use, Medical College researchers will be networking heavily with scientists outside the state, including the Massachusetts-based drug developer Proteome Systems, researchers at the Henry Ford Hospital who treat neural injuries and Toronto University scientists who are researching lung failure.
While all the groups are following the same goal – drugs for treating radiation – each one is pursuing a different tactic which will help them get closer to the right cures. “We’re dependent on other members of this consortium,” Moulder said.