The US Food and Drug Administration has awarded 18 new research grants worth more than $19 million to encourage and accelerate the development of products for patients with rare diseases.

The cash will flow into projects targeting 17 different therapeutic areas - including HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer, Prader Willi Syndrome and familial dysautonomia - all of which represent high areas of unmet need with little or no existing therapies.

Ten of the 18 awards fund studies that enrol children as young as newborns, while two are related to sickle cell disease, specifically focusing on the extreme pain that patients suffer from, which is also a leading cause of hospitalisations in this group.

The grants are awarded through the FDA’s Orphan Products Grants Program, which is designed to encourage clinical development of drugs, biologics, medical devices, or medical foods for use in rare diseases by helping to fund studies that could underpin their approval.