Medical Science & Technology Division
The Medical S & T Division (CBM) is responsible for developing the science and technology that enables candidate countermeasures to be transitioned into advanced development for future medical products that will protect and sustain the Warfighter against biological, chemical and radiological threats.
Medical biological defense research activities concentrate on preventing (by vaccination), reducing (through post-exposure treatments or therapeutics), and diagnosing the lethal and incapacitating effects of viral, bacterial, and toxin threat agents. CBM vaccine research projects are focused on candidates that will be produced using multi-use expression platform technologies, vaccine administration with more effective alternative delivery methods designed to induce protective immunity using less vaccine and fewer doses, laboratory methods that can be used to reliably predict protective immune responses to vaccination against disease threats where conventional vaccine efficacy studies are not feasible and thermostabilization methodologies to extend the shelf life and enhance the supply of vaccines.
Research projects to develop biological therapeutic candidates against viral, bacterial, and toxin threat agents are being conducted using cutting edge technologies. Structure-based drug design (SBDD) and high-throughput screening (HTS) methods are being used to interrogate both open-source and proprietary compound libraries to identify novel small molecule inhibitors targeting either pathogen or host proteins. Also, current FDA-licensed products are being further evaluated for new biological agent disease indications. Studies are being conducted to improve the understanding of human disease pathogenesis of biological threat agents to aid in the development of animal models that approximate human disease, which plays an important role during the regulatory approval process.
The effective utilization of medical countermeasures critically relies on the ability to rapidly identify exposed individuals and confirm the specific identity of the causative agent(s). To this end, medical biological diagnostics research is focused on the development of fieldable platforms and assays for biological threat agent identification in clinical matrices. In addition, research is being conducted to identify and verify potential biomarkers that may indicate ongoing infection prior to the onset of disease symptoms. Biomarkers could be developed for use in a rapid, presymptomatic diagnostic test that would facilitate timely treatment.
The overarching goal of the medical chemical defense research in CBM is to provide protective countermeasures against the harmful effects of both traditional and non-traditional chemical threats by using medical pretreatments, therapeutics, and diagnostic capabilities. The main areas of research focus on prophylactics against nerve agents, neuroprotectants, vesicant therapeutics, acetylcholinesterase (AChE) reactivators, and chemical medical diagnostics.
Current research in nerve agent bioscavengers focuses on catalytic proteins, where one enzyme molecule can neutralize many molecules of the nerve agent. Neuroprotectant research focuses on preventing functional damage to the neurological system and treating or preventing seizures brought about by nerve agent exposure. Developing vesicant therapeutics will treat the eyes, skin, and respiratory system after exposure to vesicant agents. Reactivator research examines candidate compounds for their ability to recover AChE activity after nerve agent exposure. Chemical medical diagnostic research develops assays and devices to detect exposure levels from a variety of chemical threats.
Near-term efforts focus on the development of improved centrally-active therapeutics effective against both current and emerging chemical threats as well as exploration of small molecule approaches to pretreatments for nerve agents and other agents of interest.
The goal of the medical radiological defense research program in CBM is to provide countermeasures to prevent and treat injury due to radiological exposure. Though there are countermeasures available to prevent absorption of radiological agents and to treat internal contamination, there are no countermeasures to reverse the effects of ionizing-radiation exposure. This research area is making significant progress in identifying potential candidate compounds as well as in developing highly accurate biodosimetry capabilities for estimating in the field the dose of radiation received.