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'Dirty Bomb' drug grant extended
UK developing oral dose to combat radioactive exposure
LEXINGTON, Ky., (Dec. 1, 2007) – A University of Kentucky research team has been awarded a $3.96 million federal grant to complete its work on a drug that could be taken orally to treat exposure to radioactive material in "dirty bombs" that might be used by terrorists.
Michael Jay, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences in the UK College of Pharmacy, leads the research team, which did its initial work with a $1.2 million federal grant given in 2005.
Both grants were from the National Institutes of Health.
"We're essentially using what we call 'drug development process,'" Jay said yesterday.
The next two years of research will include tests on humans to see how well they orally absorb the drug, called DTPA (diethylenetriaminepentaacetate), Jay said yesterday. Tests have so far been limited to laboratory rats.
Jay said it could take three to four years, about one-third of the normal time, to gain approval from the Federal Drug Administration. The approval process would be expedited to have the drug ready in the event of a radiation emergency, he said. The drug is already used intravenously.
A dirty bomb, formally called a radiological dispersion device, differs from a nuclear bomb in that it is easy to make and uses radioactive waste. A dirty bomb first causes death and destruction from its explosion, then from deadly radiation in the air.
No dirty bomb has been detonated, but authorities such as the United Nations say this becomes increasingly likely in an age of terrorism.
In 1995, Chechen rebels planted a dirty bomb in a Moscow park, but it did not explode. In 2002, the United States arrested Jose Padilla, an alleged al-Qaida member, for planning to build and detonate a dirty bomb in a U.S. city.
Jay said the team is studying oral use of DTPA, as opposed to intravenous, because it would be less expensive and would not require having a trained professional administer the drug.
DTPA "has been around for decades and decades," Jay said. It binds together fluid metal elements -- not hard metals -- so they can be eliminated from the human body.
Jay, 54, earned his doctorate at UK and has been on its faculty for 26 years. He has been involved in obtaining about $10 million in research funds from outside UK.
His team members include two UK pharmacy faculty: Robert Yokel, professor and associate dean for research and graduate education, and Patrick McNamara, professor and chairman of the pharmaceutical sciences department.
Another team member is Russ Mumper, who left UK about a year ago to be professor and director of the Center for Nanotechnology in Drug Delivery at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Jay said the team has applied for a patent. The drug would become UK's intellectual property, and UK would decide whether to market it for commercial manufacture. UK researchers get royalties from inventions that are sold and earn money.