Within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the NIH has taken a leadership role in pursuing the development of new and improved medical countermeasures (to include alternative routes of delivery of existing therapeutics) designed to prevent, diagnose, and treat the conditions caused by potential and existing chemical agents of terrorism (e.g. toxins targeting the eyes, skin, metabolic pathway, neurological, and pulmonary systems). In addition, many of the same chemicals posing a threat as terrorist agents may also be released from transportation and storage facilities by industrial accidents or during a natural disaster.
The NIH has developed a comprehensive Countermeasures Against Chemical Threats (CounterACT) Research Network that includes Research Centers of Excellence, individual research projects, SBIRs, contracts and other programs. This trans-NIH CounterACT network conducts basic, translational, and clinical research aimed at the discovery and/or identification of better therapeutic medical countermeasures against chemical threat agents, and facilitates their movement through the regulatory process. The overarching goal of this research program is to enhance our medical response capabilities during an emergency.
Agents of interest include (but not limited to): methyl mercury, methyl isocyanate, cyanide, phosgene, chlorine, sulfur/nitrogen mustard, Lewisite, neurotoxic OP pesticides (e.g. parathion, chlorpyrifos, etc), chemical warfare agents. Scope of research may include identification of new or existing therapeutics that can treat victims of a chemical emergency, model development, biomarker identification to guide therapeutic intervention, modeling of long-term sequelae from a single acute exposure incident, alternative route of administration of currently available drugs to enable use in a mass casualty scenario, etc.
For more information, including active funding opportunity announcements, see: www.ninds.nih.gov/counteract
If you are interested in the NIH CounterACT Program (www.ninds.nih.gov/counteract) or wish to connect with researchers in this field, we invite you to consider joining the NIH CounterACT group on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/groupRegistration?gid=3734518. This group is comprised of researchers (to include past, present, and hopefully future members of the CounterACT network) interested in the field of medical countermeasure research and development to enhance the nation's medical response capabilities during a chemical emergency.
We will provide group members timely update of active funding opportunity announcements, notices, new core resources, important accomplishments, etc. to increase general awareness of the program. Ultimately, we envision this group will bring researchers together to foster new collaborative efforts based on shared scientific interests.
Please feel free to invite your colleagues, collaborators and post-docs to join.
1)The opinions or assertions contained herein are the private views of the individual members and are not to be construed as ofﬁcial or as reﬂecting the views of the National Institutes of Health or the federal government.
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Note that recent ACS and ACS-supported conferences have introduced the topic of chemistry relevant to such security issues (albeit broader than the topic of this original post), for example, the theme of "Chemistry and Global Security: Challenges and Opportunities" at the Fall 2009 meeting in Washington DC, and the new "Security" topical area at last December's Pacifichem 2010 conference. I expect topics in these areas will only increase as transportation, communication, trade, and interactions increase on a global scale (and bringing with them new potential threats as well).
Scientists Could Turn Natural Enzyme into Defense against Man-Made Nerve Agents (NIH/NINDS Press Release)
For more information, see
Gupta RD et al. “Directed evolution of hydrolases for prevention of G-type nerve agent intoxication.” Nature Chemical Biology, February 2011, Vol. 7, pp. 65-125. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21217689