ASU leads $40 million effort to rapidly assess radiation exposures

December 21, 2009

Dec. 21, 2009 TEMPE, Ariz.--Arizona State University will lead a $40.8 million, multi-institutional research program to develop systems that would rapidly measure an individual's level of exposure to radiation in the event of a radiological or nuclear incident. In the event of a large-scale disaster, such a system would ensure that first responders have the information necessary to provide appropriate medical treatment.

The five-year contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) emphasizes the development of prototypes that would enable more rapid triage of patients than is currently possible.

"With the proliferation of advanced radiological materials in hospitals, clinics or nuclear facilities throughout the world, the risks and threats of a 'dirty bomb' incident or similar nuclear disaster remains very real," said Carl Yamashiro, PhD, the principal investigator at ASU's Biodesign Institute who will direct the effort. "We have assembled a dream team of institutions and companies to catalyze our team's research and discovery efforts, and translate the advances into a field-deployable technology."

ASU will oversee the research program management, coordination and integration necessary for efficient and effective development of the system.

"Arizona State University has focused its world-class research enterprise on solving many of the most serious problems facing humanity," said ASU President Michael M. Crow. "This award recognizes our leadership in research that involves the coordinated effort of a large, multi-disciplinary, complex scientific skill set and our capability of delivering on this technological promise to the ultimate benefit of society."

The development of prototypes incorporates key technologies that build on the research, development and manufacturing strengths of the partners. The effort involves prestigious local and national institutions and companies including: the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), Columbia University, High Throughput Genomics, Inc., Tecan Group, Ltd, University of Arizona, Scottsdale Healthcare Research Institute, and the University of Illinois, Chicago.

The goal of the project is to deliver a Biodosimetry Assay System that would assess the amount of ionizing radiation an individual had absorbed in the event of exposure. Currently, no rapid, high-throughput system exists to measure the radiation dose of individuals within a large population.

"The beauty of this system is its versatility," said Yamashiro. "Not only will we be developing a system for the effective response to a nuclear or radiologic event that could affect a large population but the high-throughout platform can also be used to advance genomics testing and other routine laboratory procedures measuring gene expression levels."

Developing the system requires utilizing a biomarker signature set based on gene expression markers. This set of markers will provide a distinct indicator for the level of absorbed radiation. The system will be capable of analyzing 2,000 blood samples in a day with an 8-hour turnaround for individual measurements to enable appropriate medical triage.

The system is designed to be comprehensive in scope, including specialized collection cartridges with which first responders can easily perform field collection of blood samples, a high-throughput assay system, and software for data collection and interpretation of results. The team will also work with government entities including the Food and Drug Administration on the implementation of the system once the prototype has been demonstrated to perform the desired tasks.

The latest effort builds on the achievements of a five-year, $25 million Center for Medical Countermeasures Against Radiation (CMCR), involving research by ASU, TGen and Columbia University. The CMCR was one of eight established by the National Institutes of Health in 2005 in response to increased concerns about radiological disasters from terrorism and illicit trafficking of radioactive materials. The CMCRs conducted foundational research and feasibility studies for such technologies and countermeasures, as well as for related fundamental research for medical options to treat the variety of acute and long-term injuries that can result from nuclear or radiological attacks.

Arizona State University

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