For more than 200 years, the Army's efforts to protect Soldiers from emerging health threats have resulted in a wide array of significant advancements in medicine. George Washington's Continental Army Soldiers were inoculated against smallpox in 1777, setting a precedent for future mass immunizations. Maj. Walter Reed would later prove mosquito transmission of yellow fever, with Col. William Gorgas then using improved sanitation measures to prevent such transmission and ultimately stop future epidemics of yellow fever and malaria. Army doctors wrote the first American surgical textbook, kept the nation's first health statistics, and established the first American school of preventive medicine and public health. Many additional medical "firsts" followed in the field of combat medicine in World Wars I and II.
The U.S. Army Surgeon General's Medical Research and Development Board was established in 1943 to coordinate all medical department research with agencies both inside and outside the Army. In 1958, the Army Medical Research Board was converted to the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command, which became the central agency for all Army military medical research and development efforts to improve preventive medicine measures and rapid treatment techniques. USAMRDC research program addressed problems unique to the military, and further applied directly to preserving the general health and safety of soldiers. USAMRDC's motto, "Research for the Soldier", fully captures the goal and breadth of its mission. In 1978, USAMRDC headquarters moved from Washington D.C. to Fort Detrick, Maryland.
In November 1994, a special ceremony marked the establishment of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command; its motto revised to "Protect, Project, Sustain." This reorganization improved the Army Medical Department's ability to prevent illness and injury in deploying forces and ensured the development of medical logistics systems that enhance medical readiness. This allowed the command to more readily manage the medical materiel acquisition needs of the 21st century Army.
In 2018, USAMRMC was redesignated as the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command. Today, the command provides solutions for America's sons and daughters who serve the nation around the globe.
The Institute of Surgical Research, which is based in San Antonio, Texas, specializes in combat casualty care research, and is noted as the world's premier research organization for enabling evidence-based solutions for the optimal care of the combat wounded. Research performed at the ISR recently led to an FDA extension of the shelf life of cold-stored platelets – a vital blood product required by Soldiers on the battlefield. The ISR also helped develop the SAM Junctional Tourniquet, which is designed to stop bleeding in areas of the torso – like the pelvic area – where limb tourniquets cannot be used. Further, the Institute showed that tourniquets in general – which had previously fallen out of favor – have a place on today's battlefield, as they're credited with saving numerous lives during Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.
The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and its unit in Europe stands as the DOD's premier research enterprise for infectious diseases, brain health, and Soldier performance optimization. In 2022, WRAIR partnered with experienced manufacturing entities to facilitate the transfer of key mRNA manufacturing processes to the WRAIR Pilot Bioproduction Facility, thereby aiding the development of an in-house capability for mRNA vaccine production. WRAIR's global research network has participated in the discovery, development, or testing of nearly all FDA-approved antimalarial drugs, and is further currently leading the world's largest HIV vaccine efficacy trial. In short, WRAIR is built to detect, mitigate, and eliminate medical threats to Soldiers, allowing them to face any enemy, anywhere in the world.
The National Interagency Biodefense Campus addresses bio-terror threats, with the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases – more commonly referred to as USAMRIID – as its hub. Notably, the newest anthrax vaccines in clinical trials today are based on a decade of work at USAMRIID. Additionally, by using a novel antibody discovery platform developed by in-house researchers, USAMRIID is spearheading the development of monoclonal antibody-based therapies for several hemorrhagic fever viruses and encephalitic viruses, including Marburg virus, Machupo virus, and the Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever virus, among others. Most recently, USAMRIID used this platform to discover two new therapeutics for Sudan virus, a so-called "cousin" of the deadly Ebola virus.
In medical chemical defense research, MRDC's U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense – along with partners at WRAIR – have developed a bio-scavenger as a pretreatment for nerve agent exposure. When administered in an appropriate dose, the pretreatment protocol protects people from nerve agent exposure for up to two weeks. Further, USAMRICD recently completed pivotal research on the Rapid Opioid Countermeasure System, which is a 10 mg naloxone auto-injector used to treat military-relevant opioid intoxication.
The Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center is a unique and integral part of the USAMRDC. TATRC engages in essential medical research focused on advanced medical technologies and is dedicated to bringing innovative telehealth solutions to the Warfighter and the Military Health System. In 2022, TATRC debuted the Taurus-M tele-surgical robot, a prototype tool designed to establish a semi-autonomous robotic framework that will enable safe and effective telesurgery in forward care environments by accommodating for signal latency and disruption. Also recently, TATRC unveiled the next-generation NEXUS laboratory; a sleek, high-tech research environment designed to explore and analyze the intersection of humans, data, and technology across the Military Health System.
The U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity, with its expertise in transitioning medical products from the lab to the field, is currently working to ensure that vaccines for the respiratory infection called adenovirus will again be available to protect recruits going through basic training. USAMMDA's Warfighter Protection and Acute Care Project Management Office contributed to the development of the TicoVac vaccine, the first FDA-approved tick-borne encephalitis vaccine in the U.S.
Similarly, the United States Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity crafts contracts, grants, and cooperative agreements to support command's research staff, scientific effort, advance development support, medical products, logistics support, and supplies. This mission encompasses more than $1.5 billion and more than 38,000 transactions annually.
The command's Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program continues to provide hope for advancements in military medicine as well as in public health through their research programs that hope to find cures for breast cancer, prostate cancer, neurofibromatosis, and more.
Researchers at the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Lab are helping the Army's aviation soldiers fight better, longer, stronger, smarter, and safer through their research in acoustics, aeromedical devices, jolt, vision, and safety equipment. An example is USAARL's Environmental Sensors in Training program, which seeks to identify both wearable and environmental sensors that can be used in military environments, chiefly those with applications to blast exposure and head acceleration impact. The goal of the project is to inform leaders when Service Members performing in military operations experience potentially concussive events, thereby prompting medical care.
The U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine conducts basic and applied research to determine how exposure to extreme heat, severe cold, high terrestrial altitude, occupational tasks, physical training, deployment operations, and nutritional factors affect the health and performance of military personnel. USARMIEM's work on the new Individual Heat Optimization Training Tool mobile application is the result of decades of research focused on developing algorithms designed to assess the exertional heat illness risk of any given population of Soldiers. On the other end of the spectrum, USARIEM researchers are also developing Cold Weather Ensemble Decision Aid, a user-friendly computer application designed to show the Warfighter which specific clothing items to wear based on planned activity levels in freezing conditions.
USAMRDC works every day to better the health and well-being of America's Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines, with a constant goal of saving lives and improving readiness and resiliency.