Introduction to Our Center :
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a five-year, $19.2 million grant to UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Rutgers University to support the creation of a Center of Excellence focused on the development of new and improved medical countermeasures against high priority chemical threats. This Center will focus on developing drugs to treat sulfur mustard poisoning, a potent chemical warfare vesicant. Although it has been studied for more than 80 years, the mechanisms mediating its actions as a vesicant remain unknown; moreover, to date, there are no effective medical countermeasures for exposure to warfare vesicants.
In collaborative studies with Battelle Memorial Institute, members of the Center have identified lead compounds against sulfur mustard which are being optimized for IND-enabling studies. Studies are in progress evaluating the efficacy of these potential countermeasures in model systems of sulfur mustard toxicity. New drug formulations and methods of drug delivery are being optimized. In addition, Research and Development Projects are underway to identify specific mechanisms of action of sulfur mustard and potential new targets for therapeutic intervention in three major vesicant targets: the eye, the skin and the lung. Investigators on these projects work closely with a Pharmacology and Drug Development Core and a Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmaceutics Core with considerable expertise in drug development, providing insights to facilitate the development of sulfur mustard countermeasures.
The research laboratories of each Core group are members of the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute (EOHSI), a facility jointly sponsored by UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and the School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University. An active Training and Education Program directed at health care providers at Rutgers University, UMDNJ-School of Public Health, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, The School of Health Sciences and Practice at New York Medical College and the Health Sciences Program at Lehigh University has been established.
The principal investigators include Dr. Jeffrey Laskin as the overall director of the Center; Dr. Donald Gerecke at Rutgers as co-director of the Center; Drs. Marion Gordon, Debra Laskin, and Patrick Sinko, also at Rutgers; Dr. Diane Heck at New York Medical College, Dr. Joshua Gray at the US Coast Guard Academy and Dr. Ned Heindel at Lehigh University. Investigators at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Rutgers are members of the Environmental Occupational and Health Sciences Institute.
Goals of the Counter Act Program:
Evaluate Higher Priority Chemical Threats
- Neurotoxic agents such as organophosphorus nerve "gases"
- Vesicating agents such as sulfur mustard
- Pulmonary agents such as chlorine gas
- Metabolic/cellular poisons such as cyanide
Scope of Research
- Mechanistic research to identify targets for therapeutic/diagnostic development
- Development of invitro and animal models for efficacy screening of therapeutics and diagnostic tools
- Efficacy screening of therapeutics/diagnostics using new and validated in vitro and animal models that are appropriate
- Advanced efficacy studies with appropriate animal models including non-human primates using Good Laboratory Practices (cGLP)
- Clinical studies, including trials, when appropriate
The UMDNJ/Rutgers University Counter Center is a collaboration between: