MRICD Hosts 18th Bioscience Review
The U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense hosted its 18th Biennial Medical Defense Bioscience Review in Hunt Valley, Md. May 20-24. Sponsored by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, MRICD's parent organization located at Fort Detrick, Md., the conference highlighted the latest research to develop medical countermeasures to protect against the effects of chemical warfare agents, toxic industrial chemicals, and biological neurotoxins. The conference also featured discussions on the current strategies to manage and provide medical care to chemical casualties.
"Bioscience Review is significant in that it represents the only opportunity for the entire medical chemical defense community to gather for focused scientific exchanges," said Dr. John Graham, who chaired this year's conference and serves as MRICD's deputy to the commander for research.
"A broad range of pertinent topics was discussed, in both platform and poster presentations," continued Graham. "There were plenty of opportunities for further discussion of experimental results and planning for future collaborative research efforts among the attendees."
Graham opened the meeting and then introduced a special lecture by Dr. John Petrali, a research anatomist who has worked at MRICD for over 50 years. Petrali presented a historical perspective of the institute entitled "Within These Hallowed Halls: A Personal History of USAMRICD." The opening morning session concluded with a keynote address, "Animal Welfare," by MRICD's commander, Col. Peter Schultheiss. Schultheiss, a Veterinary Corps officer, provided a historical overview of animal welfare regulations.
A highlight of each Bioscience conference is the presentation of the Clarence A. Broomfield Award and the award lecture. Dr. David Lenz, renowned in the medical chemical defense community for his research in the development of bioscavengers as a pretreatment to protect military personnel exposed to nerve agents, was this year's recipient of the award. His lecture, "Protein Drugs against Nerve Agent Poisoning: From A to B," was a historical overview of the bioscavenger program. Lenz discussed early attempts to generate antibodies to nerve agents. He then went on to describe the development of butyrylcholinesterase as the leading stoichiometric bioscavenger and the ongoing research on catalytic bioscavengers, which will one day replace the stoichiometric product, because they are less expensive, more readily available, more efficient at scavenging nerve agents in the blood, and require much less volume to be injected. Lenz retired from MRICD last fall after over 40 years of service.
A new session this year was a special working lunch with representatives from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, who provided an overview of the agency's Medical Countermeasures Initiative. The session also included discussions on the use of in vitro, ex vivo, in vivo, and in silico models during the development of medical countermeasures against drugs and biologics. Another topic was the development of in vitro diagnostics, and contact information for pre-investigational new drug discussions with FDA officials was provided.
Each day of the conference during the afternoon break, members of MRICD's Chemical Casualty Care Division, Field Training Team, gave a demonstration, "Between Hollywood and the Field Hospital," to "showcase the latest method for creating and staging ultra-realistic simulated CBRNE casualties." The demonstrations gave attendees, who were also invited to participate, the opportunity to see someone transformed into a severely injured simulated casualty. Over the course of the demonstrations, injuries that would result from exposure to nerve, pulmonary and vesicant agents, as well as from lacerations and thermal burns, were simulated. The division has incorporated these moulage techniques, as well as the use of state-of-the-art computerized manikins, into its applied learning programs.
For the first time in the history of the Bioscience Review, awards were presented to attendees for top scientific posters. Five posters were recognized for scientific merit. Maj. Shai Shrot, Israel Defense Forces, received the award for International Principal Investigator, for his poster "Early In Vivo MR Spectroscopy Findings in Organophosphate-Induced Brain Damage--Potential Biomarkers for Short-Term Survival." The Department of Defense Principal Investigator poster award went to MRICD's Donald Maxwell for "A Common Mechanism for Resistance of Agent-Inhibited Acetylcholinesterase to Oxime Reactivation Based on QSAR of Nerve Agent Analogues of Sarin, Cyclosarin and Tabun," and the Post-Doctoral Fellow award went to an MRICD investigator as well, as did the Young Investigator award: Dr. John Azeke, for "Comparative Assessment of Cutaneous Sulfur Mustard Injuries in Sinclair Miniature Versus Weanling Yorkshire Swine," and Cristin Rothwell, "Analysis of Micro RNA Expression in Human Keratinocytes Following Exposure to Sulfur Mustard," respectively. The U.S. Non-DoD Principal Investigator award recipient was Dr. Stanton McHardy, Southwest Research Institute, for "Development of Novel, 'Non-Pyridinium' AChE Reactivators or Peripheral and Central Protection against CWA Poisoning." Graham presented each winner with a certificate and one of Schultheiss's commander coins.
Recognition was also given to five seniors from the Aberdeen High School Science and Mathematics Academy who completed their Capstone projects under the mentorship of MRICD scientists. Each of their outstanding projects in medical chemical defense was presented in a poster at the meeting, and each student received a certificate acknowledging her efforts. Allison Opitz, mentored by Dr. Erik Johnson, presented "Urinary Biomarkers Detect Nephrotoxicity Following Soman (GD) Exposure." Alexandria Will-Cole's project was "Analysis of In Vitro Interactions Between Conventional Therapeutic Drugs and Bioscavenger Enzymes," mentored by Dr. Tamara Otto. Nia Alleyne worked with Dr. Benedict Capacio on her project, "Rapid Simultaneous Analysis of Alkyl Methylphosphonic Acids Using a Solid-Phase Extraction Technique." Kamini Mallick's mentor was Dr. Heidi Hoard-Fruchey; her project, "Getting to the Heart of the Matter: Molecular Alterations Following Nerve Agent-Induced Cardiotoxicity." Nickole's Kanyuch, mentored by Dr. John McDonough, presented her project, "Comparing the Neuroprotective Effects of Benzamide and Dantrolene Following Soman Exposure."
Representatives from 11 countries were among the 276 attendees at the conference. They presented their research in 132 posters and 55 platform talks.
"The meeting was quite successful," said Graham at the end of the week. "Feedback from the attendees on the entire meeting was very positive, with hopes of continuing this conference in the future."