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UMDNJ-Rutgers University
CounterACT Research
Center of Excellence

Designing therapies to counteract chemical terrorism.

UMDNJ-Rutgers University CounterACT Center of Excellence in the news:

5/27/12 - Dr. Diane Heck, chairwoman of New York Medical College's Department of Environmental Health Sciences, is featured in an article describing the creation of a biotechnology incubator in Westchester County, NY. [link]

9/13/11 - UMDNJ-Rutgers University CounterACT Research Center of Excellence receives $23 million grant from NIH to continue to develop treatments for chemical weapon attacks. [link]

9/1/11 - Dr. Jeffrey Laskin and Dr. Debra Laskin were recently featured in the Rutgers online newsite "Focus" in an article entitled, "Sibling Scientists Share in Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Partnership to Fight Chemical Warfare." [link]

1/15/11 - Call for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows at The Rutgers University Center for Transportation Safety, Security and Risk (CTSSR) led by Michael Greenberg, Ph.D. at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 33 Livingston Avenue, Suite 100, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08901. [link]

The Center for Transportation Safety, Security and Risk combines the strengths of faculty and staff with complementary expertise in risk analysis and transportation. Organizationally, the Center is part of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy and works cooperatively with its sister organizations the National Transit Institute and the Voorhees Transportation Center. Through NTI, the Center operates as a U.S. Department of Homeland Security designated National Transportation Security Center of Excellence.  The Center also works with other Rutgers faculty and staff in the School of Engineering, Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation, School of Environmental & Biological Sciences, School of Public Health and with University staff involved in disaster preparedness and emergency response.  Together, these organizations provide outstanding, perhaps unmatched, expertise in risk analysis and transportation security and safety.

1/1/11 - CounterACT investigator Dr. Patrick Sinko was award a new RO1 NIH grant entitled “Multifunctional PEG hydrogel nano/microparticles for targeted treatment of non-small cell lung cancer”.  Lung cancer is currently the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the United States and Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) accounts for the vast majority of lung cancer cases. There is a pressing need to develop new treatment approaches for this highly fatal disease. This project involves the development and evaluation of a novel targeted delivery system (injected intravenously) that uses nanoparticles imbedded into microparticles to deliver chemotherapeutic drugs and other agents specifically to the lungs of patients in order to treat NSCLC and reduce therapy-limiting side effects.

3/5/10 - UMDNJ/CounterACT Post-docs and Students Selected for Society of Toxicology Awards:

5/15/10 - Sherri Young, Ph.D. student at Lehigh University, was awarded an NIH CounterACT Travel Grant to attend the 2010 CounterACT Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

12/03/09 - UMDNJ/Rutgers CounterACT investigator Joshua P. Gray from the US Coast Guard Academy is selected for a platform session on Chemical and Biological Weapons- Sulfur Mustard at the annual meeting of the Society of Toxicology, March 7-10, 2010, Salt Lake City, UT

4/1/09 - Rutgers Selected to Co-Lead Homeland Security Research Center [link] - Six-year grant worth up to $30 million awarded to Rutgers- and Purdue-led partnerships; covers research in information technologies to protect nation

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. - The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has selected Rutgers University as the co-lead for a new DHS Center of Excellence to conduct research into the technological issues involved with maintaining homeland security. Rutgers and its co-lead, Purdue University, will together receive up to $5 million per year over a period of six years, for an anticipated total of as much as $30 million. The center is formally known as the DHS Center of Excellence for Command, Control, and Interoperability (CCI). It will conduct research and develop technologies, tools and advanced methods for information analysis, situational awareness, decision support, information sharing and cyber infrastructure protection. Rutgers will be the lead institution for research in the data sciences, and Purdue will be the lead for research in the visualization sciences. Leading the Rutgers effort is the university's Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science (DIMACS). "Homeland Security's selection of Rutgers for the new grant was the result of an intensive competition and evaluation process." said Fred Roberts, professor of mathematics, head of DIMACS and the Rutgers principal investigator for the CCI Center of Excellence. "It speaks to our expertise in critical, multidisciplinary areas of research and to our innovative educational programs." Roberts noted that Rutgers will lead a team of partner institutions participating in the new center's data analysis activities. In 2006, DHS awarded Rutgers a $3 million grant to lead a research consortium to develop computing technologies that find patterns and relationships in public data that could quickly identify emerging diseases, indicate possible terrorist activity, lead to more efficient inspection procedures at ports or help prepare for natural disasters. At the same time, DHS also asked Rutgers to coordinate a team of four university-based centers managing $10 million in grants covering a range of information analysis and computational technologies to protect the nation. After that, the National Science Foundation and DHS awarded Rutgers two grants to lead research on detecting smuggled nuclear materials. DHS also has awarded Rutgers two grants to provide fellowships to graduate students planning careers related to homeland security. The new grant to Rutgers will continue the work begun under the 2006 grants. In its award notification, DHS said the Center of Excellence "will create the scientific basis and enduring technologies needed to analyze massive amounts of information from multiple sources to more reliably detect threats to the security of the nation and its infrastructures, and to the health and welfare of its populace."

3/15/09 - Dr. Adrienne Black was awarded the "Best Paper of the Year" award in recognition of her publication of an "exceptional recent publication in the field of skin toxicology and pharmacology" by the Dermal Toxicology Specialty Section of the Society of Toxicology. Adrienne Black served as the Post-Doctoral Representative for the 2007-2008 term.

12/15/08 - Dr. Yoke-Chen Chang, Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at Rutgers University, currently working with CounterACT investigator Donald Gerecke has been selected by the American Association of Anatomists (AAA) as the recipient for the 2009 AAA Young Faculty Travel Award to attend the 2009 FASEB meetings in New Orleans (April 18, 2009-April 22, 2009).  She will be presenting work on the endoplasmic reticulum stress response in the mouse ear vesicant model. [abstract]

9/9/08 - Sixth Annual New Jersey Department of Homeland Security Counter-Terrorism Conference Announcement

The New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness will be presenting the 6th Annual Counter-Terrorism Conference , Fighting Crime and Terrorism: Finding the Right Balance , on Tuesday, October 21, 2008 starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Trenton War Memorial, Trenton , New Jersey . Registration will begin at 7:15 a.m. The Conference will examine how law enforcement can best balance its counter- terrorism and general crime priorities. A panel will discuss how New Jersey is working smarter to help bridge these two priority areas. Guest speakers will also focus on the current “homegrown” terrorist threat and on the critical role of law enforcement in counter-terrorism.

For those in law enforcement that wish to attend, please register through your NJ Learn account at www.njlearn.com . Other attendees can register online at the following website, http://www.njhomelandsecurity.gov/annualconference.html.

9/2/08 - Rutgers to Survey NJ Residents on Emergency Preparedness and Awareness of Evacuation Plans

Rutgers University researchers will conduct random telephone surveys over the next several months with thousands of residents across New Jersey to determine how prepared residents believe they are to respond to an emergency and evacuate the area in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack. The surveys are being undertaken on behalf of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (OHSP), New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and the state’s Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) region. For more information, click here.

7/29/08 - Mustard gas leak at Blue Grass Army Depot

A mustard gas leak was detected at the Blue Grass Army Depot near Richmond, VA, on July 29, 2008.  While significant, this leak does not pose a threat to the surrounding population.  Furthermore, the Department of Defense is well-equipped to neutralize any potential danger posed by this event. 

The United States will have destroyed its stockpile of chemical weapons by 2014, in coordination with the Chemical Weapons Convention.  The United States has not manufactured chemical weapons since they were banned by President Nixon.  The temporary igloo storage containers are located in Kentucky and in Colorado. 

5/16/08 - Dr. Robert Casillas from Battelle Labs, a collaborator on the UMDNJ-Rutgers University CounterACT Research Center of Excellence was elected to serve as a member of The National Academy of Sciences Committee on Capitalizing on the Diversity of the Science and Engineering Workforce in Industry. The committee, operating under the oversight of the National Academies Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy, will analyze and synthesize all of the most recent data on the subject of diversity in the science and engineering workforce and develop practices to recruit, retain and advance women and underrepresented minorities as they increase their presence in industry.  It will identify and evaluate best practices, draw findings and conclusions and develop recommendations for the corporations that rely on the skills of scientists and engineers and provide guidance to Congress, funding agencies, corporations and industrial leaders. [link]

5/1/08 UMDNJ-Rutgers University Counteract Research Center of Excellence a focus of the recent UMDNJ Annual report [here]

4/18/08 Rutgers-led team pursues innovative healing for war wounded, US Army funds new Institute of Regenerative Medicine with $85M

A consortium spearheaded by Rutgers has been awarded $42.5 million over five years to create one of two academic groups that will form the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM).
The Rutgers-led collaboration will be headed by Joachim Kohn, Board of Governors Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology in Rutgers' School of Arts and Sciences, and George Muschler, an orthopedic surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, Rutgers' principal partner in this undertaking. A second consortium will be managed by Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and the University of Pittsburgh with another $42.5 million in funding.

The U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC), in conjunction with the Office of Naval Research, the National Institutes of Health, the Air Force Office of the Surgeon General and the Department of Veterans Affairs will fund the two consortia.

The use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq and Afghanistan has caused a marked increase in severe blast trauma, now responsible for approximately 75 percent of all injuries, according to the Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma. Better body armor, quicker evacuation from the battlefield and advanced medical care have made it possible for injured soldiers to survive in greater numbers than in the past. They face the challenge of overcoming severe limb, head, face and burn injuries that can take years to treat and usually result in significant lifelong impairment.

The new institute is a strong national effort to address the unprecedented challenges of caring for men and women returning from Afghanistan and Iraq with multiple traumatic injuries. "Our foremost goal is to alleviate the human suffering associated with debilitating blast injuries and to enable our injured people to return to productive lives," Kohn said.

AFIRM will develop new products and therapies for the repair of battlefield injuries through the use of regenerative medicine. This innovative approach employs biological therapy, including stem cells and growth factors; tissue and biomaterials engineering; and transplants to enable the body to repair, replace, restore and regenerate damaged tissues and organs.

The institute also will dramatically accelerate the rate at which promising biomaterials as well as cell-based and combined regenerative medicine technologies will be converted into new therapies to restore lost tissue and lost function. These products and therapies also will serve civilian trauma and burn patients.

Biomaterials will play a crucial role in developing new therapies for regenerating tissue and healing large wounds. The Rutgers team, with its strength in biomaterials science, has embarked on creating new methods to identify unique biomaterials compositions tailored to support the growth of new nerves, blood vessels, skin, bone or muscle. The team has pioneered the approach of creating libraries of hundreds of new biomaterials allowing the researchers to discover the best choices for specific medical indications. Once identified, the new biomaterials will be distributed to other AFIRM team members for the development of new clinical applications.

The Rutgers approach is based on using experimental screening assays in combination with computational modeling. The Rutgers group will work closely with its Massachusetts Institute of Technology partners who are developing complementary methods of screening large biomaterials libraries for specific properties.

Rutgers research and management activities associated with the institute will receive approximately $1.7 million per year, supplemented over the first two years by $400,000 from the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology to be matched with another $400,000 by the university.

"The Rutgers community welcomes the opportunity to take a leadership role in this important pursuit," said Rutgers President Richard L. McCormick. "What we do here will produce a durable and adaptable resource for the development and advancement of regenerative therapies for injured military personnel as well as civilian victims of trauma."

"The Cleveland Clinic with Rutgers, and our entire AFIRM team, is deeply committed to offering new recovery options for the brave men and women who have served our country," Muschler said. "Our mission, through combined effort, is to translate opportunities that are now available in regenerative biology, as rapidly as possible, into practical tools that can be used on the front lines or here at home."

The Rutgers-led component of the institute will be based on a highly integrated, open network of dedicated partners comprising 15 premier academic institutions and more than 20 leading companies.

In addition to the Rutgers and the Wake Forest-based groups, there will be a third component. The U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research in San Antonio, Texas, will work with the two academic consortia to provide guidance on military medical needs and hosting trials of new therapies.

"New Jersey is the ideal center for the AFIRM research and development effort. We are the home of the global pharmaceutical industry, have a strong concentration of medical device companies and are one of the first states to promote and fund a broad spectrum of stem cell research initiatives," New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine wrote in a letter. "The conception of AFIRM as a partnership between military and civilian academic institutions is a groundbreaking idea for which I commend the USAMRMC."

Most of the partners in the Rutgers-led consortium have been professional colleagues for years with longstanding collaborations. The open network approach ensures that the most qualified experts and performance sites, irrespective of their institutional affiliation or geographic location, will be within reach. An executive committee headed by Kohn and Muschler will direct the research programs of the geographically dispersed network of leading academic research scientists and clinicians, industrial scientists and business managers, and military medical experts.

2/20/08  BARDA (Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority) announces new initiatives to combat chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear terrorism

BARDA, established within the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides an integrated, systematic approach to the development and purchase of the necessary vaccines, drugs, therapies, and diagnostic tools for public health medical emergencies.  BARDA also manages Project BioShield, which includes the procurement and advanced development of medical countermeasures for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents, as well as the advanced development and procurement of medical countermeasures for pandemic influenza and other emerging infectious diseases that fall outside the auspices of Project BioShield.  In addition, BARDA manages the Public Health Emergency Countermeasures Enterprise (PHEMCE).

10/18/07 - President Bush issued Homeland Security Presidential Directive 21, outlining biological and chemical defense research. [link]

9/20/07 - See the new article in the 2007 UMDNJ Magazine highlighting the UMDNJ/Rutgers University CounterACT Research Center of Excellence. [link]

6/1/07 - Article in the Spring 2007 issue of ‘Robert Wood Johnson Medicine’, a publication for alumni and friends of UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, interviewing Dr. Jeffrey D. Laskin on the mission of the UMDNJ/Rutgers University CounterACT Research Center of Excellence. [link]

4/25/07 - Spring 2007 Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine magazine article highlighting our Center [link]

4/7/07 - NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness creates "Preparedness College".  Paul Lioy, Professor of Envrionmental and Occupational Medicine at UMDNJ and a collaborator on the UMDNJ/Rutgers University CounterACT Research Center of Excellence, and Fred Roberts, Professor of Mathematics at Rutgers University are pleased to inform us that the NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (OHSP) has announced the creation of a "Preparedness College".  Drs. Lioy and Roberts will work closely with the OHSP on the mission of the college. The "College" will take on several roles including the preparation of a directory of experts from around the State of New Jersey to assist the OHSP in homeland security issues.

3/16/07 - Governor Corzine announces steps to increase chemical security. [link]

2/6/07 - Dr. Ned Heindel of the UMDNJ-Rutgers University CounterACT Center will be interviewed for the Public Broadcasting System TV series NOVA on the life of America's first African-American chemistry professional, Dr. Percy Julian. [pdf]

1/24/07 - UMDNJ-Rutgers CounterACT Center Meeting. 12-3pm, January 26, Room 404 EOHSI.

1/10/07 - The first annual CounterACT network research symposium took place April 25-27, 2007, in Arlington VA.

11/09/06 - CounterACT a part of Project Bioshield, a national security priority to expedite research on the most promising scientific discoveries. [article]

11/08/06 - Research to combat chemical threats. [article]

11/02/06 - Press release announcing the receipt of our award. [article]