This is a renewal application for the UMDNJ/Rutgers University CounterACT Research Center of Excellence, which is specifically focused on the discovery and development of drugs to treat poisoning from exposure to vesicants including sulfur mustard, nitrogen mustard, and other mechanistically related chemical threat agents. The Center consists of three Research and Development Projects, each focused on a major vesicant target: the eye, lung and skin. Research is centered on elucidating specific mechanisms of vesicant toxicity, with the overall goal of identifying targets for therapeutic intervention. These projects are supported by a Pharmacology and Drug Development Core and a Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmaceutics Core consisting of investigators with considerable expertise in drug discovery, delivery and development. Important lead compounds have been identified and innovative formulations and delivery systems developed that increase pharmacological activity and improve pharmacokinetic profiles. Over 150 potential therapeutic compounds were synthesized, formulated, and evaluated for efficacy in vitro and against vesicant-induced injury resulting in four distinct families that will be chemically optimized during the renewal period. A Training and Education Program has been established directed at students, postdoctoral fellows and health care providers at the Universities of CounterACT investigators. During the next grant period, mechanistic research will focus on following novel discoveries related to how vesicants damage tissues including studies on autophagy, matrix metalloproteinases, ER stress proteins, and the role of macrophage subpopulations. The Pharmacology and Drug Development Core will continue to have informal meetings with the FDA, conduct IND-enabling studies, coordinate activities with external collaborators;it will also evaluate and advance selected lead compounds. The Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmaceutics Core will chemically optimize lead compounds in four promising classes, as well as develop strategies and targeted delivery systems to support multiple agent/ multiple mechanism treatment regimes for vesicant-mediated wound healing. It is anticipated that Center efforts will result in new drugs that will be in the approval process for treating vesicant poisoning in humans.

Public Health Relevance

There is increasing concern that civilian populations might be exposed to chemical toxicants. The primary objective of the Center will be to develop medical countermeasures against these chemicals. A team of researchers has been assembled capable of rapid advancement of candidate drugs through the regulatory process, so that they can be used to enhance the medical response capabilities of the United States.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)
Specialized Center--Cooperative Agreements (U54)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-MDCN-J (54))
Program Officer
Tseng, Hung H
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Medicine & Dentistry of NJ
Public Health & Prev Medicine
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code
Malaviya, Rama; Laskin, Jeffrey D; Laskin, Debra L (2014) Oxidative stress-induced autophagy: role in pulmonary toxicity. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 275:145-51
Joseph, Laurie B; Heck, Diane E; Cervelli, Jessica A et al. (2014) Structural changes in hair follicles and sebaceous glands of hairless mice following exposure to sulfur mustard. Exp Mol Pathol 96:316-27
Massa, Christopher B; Scott, Pamela; Abramova, Elena et al. (2014) Acute chlorine gas exposure produces transient inflammation and a progressive alteration in surfactant composition with accompanying mechanical dysfunction. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 278:53-64
Mishin, Vladimir; Heck, Diane E; Laskin, Debra L et al. (2014) Human recombinant cytochrome P450 enzymes display distinct hydrogen peroxide generating activities during substrate independent NADPH oxidase reactions. Toxicol Sci 141:344-52
Zheng, Ruijin; Heck, Diane E; Black, Adrienne T et al. (2014) Regulation of keratinocyte expression of stress proteins and antioxidants by the electrophilic nitrofatty acids 9- and 10-nitrooleic acid. Free Radic Biol Med 67:1-9
Pinkerton, Nathalie M; Zhang, Stacey W; Youngblood, Richard L et al. (2014) Gelation chemistries for the encapsulation of nanoparticles in composite gel microparticles for lung imaging and drug delivery. Biomacromolecules 15:252-61
Jan, Yi-Hua; Heck, Diane E; Dragomir, Ana-Cristina et al. (2014) Acetaminophen reactive intermediates target hepatic thioredoxin reductase. Chem Res Toxicol 27:882-94
Page, Eric J; Gray, Joshua P (2014) Agents of Bioterrorism: Curriculum and Pedagogy in an Online Masters Course. J Toxicol Educ 1:31-53
Chang, Yoke-Chen; Wang, James D; Hahn, Rita A et al. (2014) Therapeutic potential of a non-steroidal bifunctional anti-inflammatory and anti-cholinergic agent against skin injury induced by sulfur mustard. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 280:236-44
Chen, Peiming; Zhang, Xiaoping; Jia, Lee et al. (2014) Optimal structural design of mannosylated nanocarriers for macrophage targeting. J Control Release 194:341-9

Showing the most recent 10 out of 90 publications