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Medical Countermeasures Against Chemical Threats

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Research History

For more than 75 years, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has been addressing the threat of chemicals to military forces and has been developing countermeasures to such threats.

The United States Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense (USAMRICD) has a long history of developing medical products against chemical warfare agents for military use. Until 2006, DoD efforts had been the only well-defined federally supported medical research effort addressing the medical effects of chemical warfare agents. In prior years, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) had supported limited research on some of the symptoms possibly associated with chemical exposures. These have included studies on the etiology and physiologic changes associated with seizures and other neurologic effects of drugs and chemicals on the central nervous system.

NIH has also supported research on the environmental toxicologic effects on the body, but no program had focused exclusively on the terrorist threat posed by chemicals. NIAID-supported a Blue Ribbon Panel and several targeted workshops on specific chemical issues and assisted the NIH in developing the medical research strategy and agenda. This new research, thrust on developing medical countermeasures that can be used in mass casualty situations, represents a new and important priority for NIH and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and its commitment to protect and maintain the health of the nation. This research has resulted in the development of an NIH Strategic Plan and Research Agenda on Medical Countermeasures Against Chemical Threats. This program, focusing on the medical aspects of chemical agents, is a part of the broad biodefense medical research program headed by NIAID across the Weapons of Mass Destruction threat spectrum.

With the support of NIAID and the NIH Biodefense Research Coordinating Committee, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has executed a research grant and contract program called the NIH Countermeasures Against Chemical Threats (CounterACT) Research Network. The CounterACT Research Network solicited proposals from academia, other governmental agencies, and industry. In Fiscal Year 2006, The CounterACT Research Network established four Centers of Excellence in Medical Chemical Research and more than two dozen research projects focusing on nerve agents, mustard, cyanide, and pulmonary agents. Several Small Business Innovation Research grants for therapeutics and diagnostics development were also established. NIAID also developed a strong research partnership through an interagency agreement with USAMRICD to focus on nerve agents, vesicants, cyanide, and pulmonary agents and to explore the civilian use of military products.

Additional Information

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Last Updated February 17, 2009