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SWRI wins $4.4 million contract
September 16, 2011

By Vicki Vaughan, San Antonio Express-News

Southwest Research Institute has won a $4.4 million contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop a nasal spray or gel as an antidote to cyanide poisoning in the event of a terror attack.

The development of a nasal formula could save lives by allowing a metered dosage to be administered quickly.

"The goal of this effort is to successfully develop a supply and nasal formulation of amyl nitrite," said Dr. Joe McDonough, principal investigator and director of the institute's microencapsulation and nanomaterials department.

Amyl nitrite is relatively inexpensive and very effective against cyanide poisoning, he said.

"It's something to have in the stockpile in the event of an unfortunate event," McDonough said.

The plan is for the amyl nitrite antidote to be administered by a single person to treat many victims of cyanide poisoning quickly or as a way for victims to treat themselves.

Current treatments approved by the Food and Drug Administration for cyanide poisoning must be administered intravenously by medical personnel.

Cyanide can kill people by upsetting their cellular respiration, or the ability of cells to transport oxygen.

"It works quickly, with cramping and then difficulty with respiration, then death," McDonough said.

"We're going to show its safety in animals," he said, by testing the nasal formula on rats and primates.

The contract runs through December 2012. Health and Human Services has the option to extend the contract for four more years, amounting to a contract total of $21 million.

Health and Human Services' Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority awarded the grant to the institute.

The institute, an independent applied research and development organization, has adequate personnel to handle the contract, McDonough said, so no additional hires are anticipated.


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