MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine receives $3.3 million NIH grant for chemical antidote research

Contact: Doug Bedsaul

Studio portrait of Janice Chambers
Janice Chambers (OPA Photo)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A Mississippi State William L. Giles Distinguished Professor with a long history of chemical antidote research is leading a newly funded $3.3 million project aimed at identifying better therapeutic medical countermeasures to protect the brain against chemical threats.

Janice Chambers, director of MSU’s Center for Environmental Health Sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine, is receiving the new U01 grant, which is the university’s third award through the National Institutes of Health CounterACT program.

The five-year Optimization U01 grant is titled “Optimization of Substituted Phenoxyalkyl Pyridinium Oximes as Therapies for Organophosphate Poisoning.”

Co-investigators include CVM faculty and staff Matthew Ross, Robert Wills, Edward Meek and Alicia Olivier.

Chambers said a major concern for survivors of a chemical attack is the potential for permanent brain damage caused by seizures. The brain cannot repair such damage easily, and Chambers said there is critical need for an antidote that can enter the brain to reverse early damage and prevent long-term effects.

Chambers’ team has been developing antidotes that will improve outcomes after exposure to threatening chemicals studying surrogates for nerve agents.

“We’re trying to develop an antidote that might replace or be used in conjunction with the currently approved antidote, so we can reverse some of the toxic effects in the brain to prevent or at least attenuate the brain damage. The current FDA-approved antidote cannot protect the victim’s brain,” she explained.

The current antidote, which protects the heart, lungs and muscles, cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, a layer of cells between the blood and brain. Chambers said this barrier prevents many chemicals, including some drugs like the currently approved antidote, from moving from the blood into the brain.

“If approved, these antidotes would give more confidence to the public that not only could their lives be saved in such an event, but also their brain function could be preserved,” she said. “Our perspective is to try to save the life and the brain too, giving the person who is exposed to this type of poison the hope of a normal life after that event.”

Once approved, the antidote would be added to the Strategic National Stockpile of protective drugs and devices that is maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services to assist the public in the event of emergencies, such as terrorist attacks or accidents with these threat chemicals.

Chambers said she and her team will continue investigating the effectiveness of the novel antidote and will work to determine the best method for administering the potential drug for optimal protection and safety.

This research is supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number U01NS123255. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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