As Japan works to stabilize the crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima, people are stocking up on potassium iodide tablets – one of the only drugs available to block the body's absorption of some radioactive materials. The partial meltdown of the plant highlights the need for new drugs that can more effectively prevent or treat radiation poisoning.
Two U.S. companies are on the fast track to develop more effective treatments, according to a recent piece in BIOWorld :
"Cleveland BioLabs , of Buffalo, NY, received a $1.6 million development contract from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency of the Department of Defense  to fund additional research into… the company's Protectan CBLB502, an injectable modified protein that potentially reduces injury from acute stresses, such as radiation and chemotherapy, by mobilizing several natural cell protective mechanisms…"
"Cellerant Therapeutics Inc .... received a two-year $63.3 million contract from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority  (BARDA) last year to develop its investigational cellular therapy CLT-008 as a treatment for acute radiation syndrome (ARS), with the ultimate goal of including the drug in the Strategic National Stockpile ."
BARDA , an agency which BIO strongly supported creating, has invested over $160 million to develop 13 radiation countermeasures. While most of those treatments are in the early stages of development, some of them are far enough along in development that they could be used on a compassionate basis if the situation deteriorates in Japan, according to BIOWorld.