French biotech company Medesis Pharma has requested defence funding to speed up the development of three drugs to treat nuclear contamination, it said on Tuesday, sending its shares up by as much as 75% in early trading.
The surge in Medesis shares, which were up 53% at 1050 GMT, triggered multiple trading halts from Euronext.
Medesis said it had requested funding from France's Defence Innovation Agency for three drugs "specifically intended for the treatment of large populations contaminated or irradiated after a civil or military nuclear accident". The request comes as Russia's invasion of Ukraine has spurred widespread concerns over a possible nuclear attack.
Medesis did not say how much funding would be required, but gave itself 12- to 18-month deadlines for product registration and manufacturing, subject to demands from public authorities.
"To date, there is no suitable treatment for a serious nuclear accident," it said in a statement.
The company said its products were relevant to the war in Ukraine as well as to European plans to boost nuclear generation as countries seek to reduce reliance on Russian energy and secure carbon-free electricity.
A nuclear explosion would generate a fireball and destructive shock blast, burns from light and heat radiation, and radioactive pollution that can be carried by winds across great distances and cause long-term cancers, it said.
"The world has realised, with the tragic events in Ukraine and notably the bombing near a power station, that the nuclear threat is still very much alive," said Invest Securities' deputy managing director Pascal Hadjedj.
After health providers worldwide were left with inadequate resources to face the coronavirus pandemic, the brokerage said it was key to prepare stocks to avoid an "extreme situation".
Rx Securities' managing director Samir Devani added that Medesis' treatments could be developed rapidly and result in stockpile orders.
Sources told Reuters last week the European Union had agreed to stockpile equipment and medicine to protect against nuclear incidents.
Medesis' drug programmes seek to treat plutonium and caesium contamination, and prevent and treat respiratory and digestive inflammation caused by radiation.
They include a synthesised version of Prussian Blue which could be taken orally and stored at room temperature, and caesium medication that would be suitable for children.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who is running for re-election this month, has announced plans for six new nuclear reactors and studies for a further eight.
(Reporting by Sarah Morland; editing by Barbara Lewis and Bernadette Baum)