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October 3, 2022

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HHS expands nationwide skin donation inventory available for burn injuries in mass casualty incidents

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today announced agreements with two non-profit organizations to create substantial inventories of donor skin for patient treatment after mass casualty emergencies involving burns from chemicals, nuclear or radiological incidents or bomb detonations.

In such incidents, patients with burns across a significant part of the body may not have enough of their own healthy skin that could be grafted to cover the injured area. Skin donated from a person upon death is known as a skin allograft and can be used to cover burn wounds temporarily. For decades, skin allografts have played a critical role in the healing process towards generating new skin growth, managing patient pain, and controlling burn wound infections.

In order to build national preparedness and create a large inventory of skin allografts, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the HHS Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR), will partner with two non-profit tissue banks in the United States: Community Tissue Services (CTS) of Kettering, Ohio, and AlloSource, Inc. of Centennial, Colorado.

Both tissue banks work with other nonprofit, federally recognized organ procurement organizations that recover donated organs and tissues, such as vital organs, tendons, bone and skin, from individuals who have elected to be organ and tissue donors after death. Although the organizations have proprietary methods of keeping the donated organs and tissue usable after donation, such organizations typically do not maintain excess inventories of skin allograft.

To award the contracts with CTS and AlloSource, BARDA used Project BioShield Act authority and approximately $38 million in Project BioShield designated funding. The Project BioShield Act of 2004 accelerates the research, development, purchase, and availability of effective medical countermeasures against biological, chemical, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) threats. The agreements include options to add funding in future years to increase or maintain the level of preparedness.

Ramping up the availability of skin allografts represents the latest step for BARDA in preparing the U.S. to treat burn injuries that can result from chemical, radiological or nuclear incidents or other burn and blast-related incidents. BARDA's Burn & Blast medical countermeasures program has worked for over a decade with the burn community through the American Burn Association (ABA) as well as the private industry to develop nine other products and technologies which cover the entire range of treatments required to respond to challenges in treating a large number of burn injuries in a mass casualty incident.

An estimated 40,000 people each year are hospitalized due to burn injuries, which complicates demand for this life-saving resource in an emergency. This new effort will improve national preparedness for emergencies and support the needs of burn patients.

BARDA's Burn & Blast Program focuses on products and technologies that can be used in the commercial market as well as during national emergencies and that are easy to use in order to increase the number of medical professionals who are trained to use these products when responding to large-scale emergencies involving burn injuries. These investments benefit the American public in making new treatments available for routine care as well as building preparedness for mass casualty incidents.

About HHS, ASPR, and BARDA: HHS works to enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans, providing for effective health and human services and fostering advances in medicine, public health, and social services. ASPR leads HHS in preparing the nation to respond to and recover from adverse health effects of emergencies, supporting communities' ability to withstand adversity, strengthening health and response systems, and enhancing national health security. Within ASPR, BARDA invests in the innovation, advanced research and development, acquisition, and manufacturing of medical countermeasures – vaccines, drugs, therapeutics, diagnostic tools, and non-pharmaceutical products – needed to combat health security threats.