First responders are adept at treating all kinds of visible injuries after catastrophes. Determining immediate and long-term biological damage from a radiation dose after a radiologic or nuclear disaster is not as easy.
KAI Research, Inc., a wholly owned for-profit subsidiary of Altarum, working with researchers at Columbia University and Northrop Grumman Security Systems LLC, is playing a pivotal role in developing a biodosimetry assay that hospitals can use to assess the extent of a patient’s exposure to radiation. Such a test will let public health officials triage people exposed to radiation so that they can quickly provide the most appropriate life-saving treatment.
Once the assay kit is developed, the next challenge will be to make it a practical, cost-effective, commonly used test. Says KAI Project Manager Kristy Miller, “We want the test kit to be something hospital personnel are familiar with, that they maintain and are ready to use. We don’t want it gathering dust until a disaster happens.”
Miller added that this entire segment of federal medical emergency response using experimental devices and medications currently under development is somewhat novel. In fact, mechanisms for using experimental products in disaster response scenarios are less than two decades old, spurred into existence by the desperate need for such a mechanism in the 2001 anthrax attacks.
The aim of the overall project is to develop two related tests. One is a device for field use, to immediately triage people exposed to radiation. The second, more specific assay and the one KAI is supporting through development, will be used in hospital laboratories to inform medical treatment decisions. The product should be available within a few years.
The work is sponsored by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority within the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The biodosimetry test is being developed under a subcontract to Northrop Grumman.
For more stories like this, check out Altarum’s 2013 Annual Report.