Beckman Laser Institute awarded NIH “countermeasures” funding

Cyanide poisoning poses a major chemical threat, whether due to terrorism, structure fires or industrial accidents.  Developing new cyanide antidotes is critical to survival and a designated National Institutes of Health (NIH) priority.  The NIH Countermeasures Against Chemical Threats (CounterACT) program supports basic and translational research aimed at the development of improved therapeutic medical countermeasures against chemical threat agents and facilitates studies through drug development and regulatory processes.

Dr. Matthew Brenner’s research is focused on developing effective rescue countermeasures for toxic inhaled chemical threat agents. In 2019, Dr. Brenner and his collaborators were awarded a five-year “Center of Excellence” grant from the NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke titled, “Advancing Novel Cyanide Countermeasures.”  This multi-site center grant, which provides more than $3.2M in annual funding to the combined sites, is administered through Harvard/Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Partners in Boston, with multiple, highly collaborative projects spanning six institutions, including Harvard, Purdue, University of Utah, University of Colorado, UC San Diego and UCI.

The University of Colorado and UCI Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic makes use of novel Institute-developed photonics-based diagnostic technologies. The teams will use advanced diagnostics and imaging to monitor real-time physiological consequences of cyanide-induced injury and responses to new antidote therapies.

Dr. Brenner and his team will utilize the Institute’s research facilities.  Multiple Institute technologies, including Diffuse Optical Spectroscopy (DOS), developed in former Institute Director Dr. Bruce Tromberg’s laboratory, and Continuous Wave Near Infrared Spectroscopy (CWNIRS) will be used to assess the effects of cyanide poisoning. These technologies allow real-time monitoring of tissue oxygenation and can follow the chemical asphyxiation of cells caused by cyanide by revealing cytochrome c oxidase redox states. In addition, real-time micro-sensors for continuous tissue lactate monitoring, developed by Dr. Elliot Botvinick, will measure metabolic poison exposure consequences.

The Institute investigations will support projects and explorations at each of the other university sites and the findings will influence pharmaceutical development and metabolomics profiling for mechanistic understanding of cyanide poisoning.  This academic partnership plays a significant role in accelerating the development of countermeasures in the face of new and emerging chemical threats.