Contract awarded to fight nerve gas

Southwest Research Institute has received a three-year, $1.89 million contract to create and test small molecular compounds to be used as antidotes in the event of exposure to a chemical warfare agent such as nerve gas.

The contract was awarded to the the San Antonio, Texas-based company by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

The program, being undertaken by SwRI's Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Division, will seek to find small-molecule compounds that are capable of battling organophosphate poisoning that happens when someone is exposed to nerve gas. Nerve agents pose a significant threat to both military and civilian populations if released.

“The goal of this program is to identify new small molecule candidates as possible useful therapeutics for treating both central and peripheral effects of chemical warfare agent exposure,” Dr. Stanton McHardy, manager of Synthesis and Process Chemistry in the Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Division, said. “SwRI will collaborate with other researchers to develop a multi-disciplinary research program involving computational modeling, medicinal chemistry and biological screening.”

The program, which began in fiscal year 2010, is expected to run through fiscal year 2012. McHardy, who brings a decade of neuroscience drug-discovery work for major pharmaceutical research and development companies, will serve as the principal investigator.