SRI International has secured a contract to continue development of a diagnostic test for absorbed doses of radiation after a radiological incident.

Awarded by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), the $12.2m contract support verification testing of the system, iscloser to securing approval from US Food and Drug Administration.

As part of a contract awarded by BARDA five years ago, the SRI team, led by Sensor Systems Laboratory director David Cooper, developed a radiation biodosimeter.

"At this point, there is nothing else like it that takes a sample from an individual and assesses whether they have absorbed ionising radiation or not."

DCN Diagnostics, Evolve Manufacturing and the Stanford University School of Medicine also supported the development.

Cooper said: "At this point, there is nothing else like it that takes a sample from an individual and assesses whether they have absorbed ionising radiation or not.

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"If you have hundreds of thousands of people potentially affected, you want to screen quickly and use medical resources efficiently.

"Our goal is to develop a quick and simple point-of-care medical device that the government, first responders, hospitals and doctors can use in the field to determine a person’s absorbed dose of ionising radiation."

Ionising radiation can damage any living tissue in the human body, and the extent of damage depends on the dose of radiation received.

According to US Environmental Protection Agency, some of the early symptoms of radiation sickness include nausea, weakness, hair loss, skin burns or diminished organ function, and can lead to death.

The assay requires a finger-prick blood sample and delivers results of whether a person has absorbed a clinically significant dose of radiation within 30 minutes.

Based on a lateral flow immunoassay method, the assay features antibodies specific to a panel of radiation-responsive proteins and a proprietary phosphorescent reporter system that enable quantitative measurement of protein concentrations in the patient’s blood sample.

The technology employed in this device is likely to also be applied to other diagnostic tests, such as infectious diseases.

Image: The BARDA selected SRI-led team to develop a radiation biodosimeter five years ago. Photo: courtesy of SRI International 2015.