Epistem awarded US$3.5m in NIH biodefence contract

Consortium is developing drugs to treat radiation damage to the gastrointestinal tract

Epistem, a UK biotechnology and personalised medicine company, has been reappointed for up to five years to provide preclinical testing services as a subcontractor to the US National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Radiation/Nuclear Medical Countermeasure Product Development Support Services Contract. The University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) in Baltimore has been awarded the contract.

Since 2006, when it won its first subcontract, Epistem has received approximately US$3.5m to develop and evaluate new drugs to treat the effects of radiation damage to the gastrointestinal tract. The new five-year subcontract is expected to extend and grow the scope of the collaboration.

The Medical Countermeasures against Radiological Threats (MCART) programme, funded by the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), aims to develop new treatments for use in the event of a radiological or nuclear incident.

Epistem is a member of the research consortium that has been awarded the contract and comprises radiobiology experts, each with specialist knowledge of the effects of radiation in different tissues of the body.

Epistem will provide specialised gastrointestinal models to assess the efficacy and mode of action of new drugs entering the programme.

In the previous subcontract, the company refined drug screening methods, further characterised the biology of radiation damage in the gastrointestinal tract and assessed several new drug candidates.

Other members of the consortium, which is led by UMSOM, include Indiana University School of Medicine and Duke University in the US.

Epistem, based in Manchester, UK, is the only research facility outside of North America within the consortium.

Matthew Walls chief executive of Epistem, said: ‘This fresh contract will allow us to progress successful candidate drugs, in addition to developing models to assess treatments for the delayed effect of radiation damage.’