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Finding treatment for victims of a chemical weapons attack seems as one of the priorities of the US National Institute of Health (NIH). The institute has awarded Rutgers University over $19 million research grant for the next five years. The research aims to lead the development of drugs to treat toxicity from chemical agents used in a terrorist attack.

The grant provides scientists at Rutgers, New York Medical College, and Lehigh University the funds they need to continue a decades-long collaboration, aimed at devising drug therapies to use if deadly chemical poisons were released into the general population. Over the course of this project, NIH has provided more than $60 million to these investigators for research.

Jeffrey Laskin, director of the Rutgers University CounterACT Research Center of Excellence, a federal program pursuing medical countermeasures, told the university’s site: “Our readiness for an attack on the United States and how you treat it is still of the utmost importance. Another important issue is for our military, the warfighters who may be exposed to chemicals on the battlefield.”


Recently, The Islamic State used chemical weapons at least 52 times since 2014 on the battlefield in Syria and Iraq, according to a London-based intelligence collection and analysis service. News reports have indicated that ISIS militants have also loaded the gas into artillery shells and fired on people living in small villages miles away.

“Many people don’t think of mustard gas anymore,” said Laskin, professor of environmental and occupational health at Rutgers University School of Public Health and the Rutgers Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute (EOHSI). “But more than 100 years after it was used in World War I, it is still being used in Syria. It remains a great concern to both public health officials and the military.”

Laskin said the Rutgers CounterACT team has met with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to discuss its research and promising new drugs, and how long it will take to get drug approvals once the drug products get into the pipeline.