The escalating threat of a potential nuclear war between North Korea and the United States has led the Department of Defense to join hands with a clutch of companies in developing more effective medical treatments for acute radiation syndrome.
The hostility between the two nations reached a new height last November after Pyongyang fired an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.
Health officials in Washington say they have adequate stocks in the event of a nuclear attack and subsequent mass radiation poisonings.
But statements by a handful of drug developers and partnerships the government have announced suggest the DoD is stepping up efforts to develop stronger treatments that could protect the military and civilians ahead of a nuclear attack.
The DoD’s budget allocated $3.9 million of its total funding to develop such medical countermeasures in 2018, an increase of $600,000 from a year ago.
However, the numbers available on a handful of contracts issued to firms including Cleveland BioLabs Inc and privately held Humanetics Corp show funding of at least $13 million, suggesting that other departments of the military agency are investing in the area.
The reward for a successful drug developer is high: in 2013, the government spent $157 million to stockpile Amgen Inc’s nearly three decades old drug, Neupogen, but it and other stockpile drugs are limited as they only treat certain after-effects of radiation exposure.
Medical experts say that the increased $700 billion military budget signed into law by President Donald Trump last month could put more emphasis on programs to counter the North Korean threat and may allow a large outlay for new treatments.