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NIH CounterACT Program

CounterACT: Countermeasures Against Chemical Threats - banner graphic

Research @ NIH
Scientific Contacts
David A. Jett, Ph.D.
Program Director
Phone: 301-496-6035

D. Yeung, Ph.D.
Project Manager
Tel: 301-443-7534

Sarah Norring, Ph.D.
Program Specialist
Phone: 301-443-8189

Workshop on Nonlethal Effects of Nerve Agents Held at NIH – Workshop Summary

Active CounterACT Funding Opportunity Announcements! 

The increased risk of a terrorist attack in the United States involving chemical agents has created new challenges for many departments and agencies across the federal government. Within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the NIH is taking a leadership role in pursuing the development of new and improved medical countermeasures designed to prevent, diagnose, and/or treat the conditions caused by potential and existing chemical threat agents. Many of these same chemicals not only pose as a terrorist threat agent, they may also be released from transportation and storage facilities during industrial accidents or natural disasters. The overarching goal of the CounterACT program is to integrate cutting-edge research with the latest technological advances in science and medicine for a more rapid and effective response during these chemical emergencies.

The CounterACT program is a translational research program supporting basic, translational, and clinical research aimed at the discovery and/or identification of better therapeutic medical countermeasures and/or diagnostic technologies against chemical threat agents, and facilitates their movement through the regulatory process in collaboration with other federal departments and agencies, such as the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (HHS BARDA). The program includes a comprehensive network of Research Centers of Excellence, individual co-operative research projects, small business innovation research grants, contracts, and interagency agreements with the Department of Defense. 

The CounterACT program is annually funded by a special Congressional supplement to the NIH budget through the Office of the Director (NIH OD) under the oversight of the Office of Biodefense Research at the NIAID. This is a trans-NIH effort, involving partnerships with the NEI, NIAID, NIAMS, NICHD, NIEHS, NLM, and NINDS to execute the overall NIH Medical Research Program Directed Against Chemical Threats.

Examples of Threat Agents  

  • Anti-cholinesterase or GABA-inhibiting agents that cause seizures and neuropathology such as sarin, parathion, aldicarb, and tetramine (TETS)
  • Metabolic poisons and agents that target the blood such as sodium fluoroacetate, arsenic trioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and brodifacoum
  • Agents that target the respiratory tract and may cause pulmonary edema such as acrolein, ammonia, oleum, bromine, and phosgene
  • Vesicating agents that cause blisters and other skin pathologies such as Lewisite

Categories of research supported under this program include, but are not limited to:

  • Mechanistic research to identify targets for therapeutic/diagnostic development
  • Development of in vitro and animal models for efficacy screening
  • Efficacy screening of therapeutics/diagnostics using new and validated in vitro and animal models
  • Advanced efficacy studies with animal models, including non-human primates using current Good Laboratory Practices (cGLP)
  • Clinical studies, including clinical trials

Special consideration will be given to research relevant to people who are particularly vulnerable, including pregnant women, infants, the young, the elderly, and individuals with pre-existing medical conditions. Animal models and studies that address these vulnerabilities as well as long term effects after an acute exposure event are of interest. 

Program Review Publications

The NIH Medical Research Program Directed Against Chemical Threats - 2011 Report on Research Progress and Future Directions (pdf 1.6MB)

NIH Strategic Plan and Research Agenda for Medical Countermeasures Against Chemical Threats (pdf 3MB)

Jett DA. (2012) Chemical toxins that cause seizures. Neurotoxicology. 33: 1473-75.  Abstract

Jett DA, Yeung DT. (2010) The CounterACT Research Network: Basic mechanisms and practical applications. Proc Am Thorac Soc. 7(4): 254-6.  Abstract

Jett DA. (2010) Finding new cures for neurological disorders: A possible fringe benefit of biodefense research? Sci Transl Med. 2(23): 23ps12

Recent Developments in Medical Countermeasure (MCM) for Chemical Threats Research

Last updated December 11, 2014