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DRIVE ReDIRECT: Program Seeks to Develop Countermeasures Against Chemical Threats

The rapid availability of effective medical countermeasures against chemical exposures, from either accidents or chemical weapons attack, is critical in the treatment of their acute health effects following exposures.

The ReDIRECT Program is a new initiative from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) which aims to identify existing, commonly available therapeutics that can be used to save lives during a chemical emergency.

Under this new EZ BAA Area of Interest (AOI), BARDA will review concise abstract submissions for funding development that repurposes easily accessible therapeutics as medical countermeasures against threats such as chlorine gas, opioids, nerve agents, and others.

The ideal medical countermeasure is easily administered in a mass-casualty situation and has rapid efficacy as a post-exposure therapy, which requires easy access within hospitals, pharmacies, and the community. Drug repurposing, or label expansion, is a strategy that is used to identify new uses for FDA approved or late-stage investigational therapeutics that are outside of their original clinical indication. The identification of existing compounds for repurposing holds the potential to expand current response capabilities to chemical threats, as well as potentially mitigating the costs and risks associated with conventional drug discovery.

Repurposing drugs will ensure that these therapeutics are easily accessible during an emergency and reduce the reliance on centralized stockpiles or logistically-challenging forward deployment programs. Candidates for repurposing will focus on treating the symptoms associated with exposure to the chemical threat, rather than the agent.

The ReDIRECT program is focused on repurposing therapeutics against any of the following agents:

Pulmonary Agents: Development of medical countermeasures to prevent and treat lung damage (including pulmonary edema, pneumonitis, and fibrosis) resulting from exposure to agents such as chlorine, sulfur mustard and phosgene.

Opioids: Development of medical countermeasures to treat life-threatening respiratory depression caused by opioid overdose. These post-exposure treatments should be quick-acting and effective against a variety of opioids, including synthetic opioids such as Fentanyl. Candidates should have a mechanism of action different from existing opioid receptor antagonists.

Vesicants: Development of medical countermeasures that limit harmful aspects of exposure to vesicating agents such as sulfur mustard and Lewisite. Particular preference is given to drugs with potential to ameliorate the long term effects of exposure including Mustard Gas Keratopathy.

Blood/Metabolic Agents: Development of medical countermeasures to treat acute poisoning from agents such as cyanides. Antidotes should be easily administered by first responders in personal protective equipment. Preference is given to those cyanide antidotes that are also effective against smoke inhalation-related exposure.

Nerve Agents and Organophosphorus (OP) Pesticides: Development of medical countermeasures to treat life-threatening and long-term effects of nerve agents and OP pesticides. Antidotes should be easily administered by first responders in personal protective equipment.

Computational approaches to identify candidates for drug repurposing: Development of improved methods to rapidly identify FDA approved or late stage candidate compounds that can be repurposed against any of the aforementioned chemical threats.

The effort is a collaboration of BARDA’s Division of Research, Innovation, and Ventures (DRIVe) and the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Division.

The EZ-BAA was created to provide a streamlined process through which BARDA, and DRIVe specifically, can review and accept applications for development funding of transformative products and technologies to protect Americans from health security threats. The application process is both business-friendly and easy to follow.

Since its inception, the EZ-BAA has helped transform BARDA’s contracting process and provide innovators, entrepreneurs, and organizations with a simplified and rapid mechanism to partner with the BARDA.

For additional information, see solicitation BAA-20-100-SOL-0002.

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