Advanced science.  Applied technology.


SwRI receives $1.3 million grant for chemical weapon antidote development

June 24, 2008 – Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®)  has been awarded a one-year, $1.3-million grant by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command to develop and test nerve agent antidote formulations that can be administered as an intramuscular injection.

Chemical warfare agents attack the central nervous system inhibiting acetocholinesterase (AChE) ultimately with fatal consequence. Thus better antidotes, AChE reacativators, need to be used to reactivate swiftly to reverse effects of exposure to agent. The Institute is currently in the fourth year of a six-year contract to develop and test the stability of an AChE reactivator, which reverses symptoms caused by exposure to a chemical warfare agent. Under this recently awarded grant, SwRI will investigate novel formulations of a promising new antidote called MMB4, which can swiftly counteract exposure to a nerve agent.

"The goal of this study is to develop an operationally stable formulation of MMB4 that is able to be absorbed quickly by the body, that will not hinder atropine, which is used in combination to effectively treat the effects of a chemical nerve agent," said Dr. Joe McDonough, principal investigator and director of the Microencapsulation, Nanomaterials & Process Engineering Department in SwRI's Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Division. "From our previous work, we developed a new formulation of MMB4 that has increased stability. We now have to overcome issues that would normally restrict absorption of both of the atropine and MMB4."

The research grant will look at improving the effectiveness of several operationally stable formulations of MMB4.

"Increasing the stability and absorption of the antidote is important for a number of reasons," McDonough said. "A stable formulation that can withstand larger temperature ranges can be more easily stored for longer periods of time and used with high confidence in many worldwide environments. Increasing absorption might improve efficacy and reduce dose requirements. The operationally stable formulation is another exciting demonstration of SwRI's particle-based drug delivery capability and technology."

For 60 years, SwRI has been a leader in the development of products for the pharmaceutical, agricultural, consumer goods, and food industries and has pioneered the development of new microencapsulation and particle formation techniques.

SwRI's Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Division is ISO 9001:2000 certified, meeting international quality standards for product development, from initial design through production and servicing. For more information about SwRI's Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Division, please visit For more information about microencapsulation at SwRI, please visit

The work for this award, No. W9113M-08-1-0001, will be sponsored through the department of the Army and administered through the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, 64 Thomas Johnson Drive, Fedrick, MD, 21702. The information in this release does not reflect the position or policy of the U.S. Government and no official endorsement should be inferred. "Research will be conducted in compliance with the Animal Welfare Act Regulations and other Federal statutes relating to animals and experiments involving animals, and will adhere to the principles set forth in the Guide for Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, National Research Council, 1996."

For more information contact Tracey M.S. Whelan at (210) 522-2256, Communications Department, Southwest Research Institute, 6220 Culebra Road, San Antonio, TX 78238-5166.