Tuesday, February 7, 2012

ECBC Inventors Pave Way for Enhanced Nerve Agent Detection, Awarded Patent

Edgewood Chemical Biological Center’s Jim Genovese, Robin Matthews and Science Applications International Coporation on-site contractor Kwok Ong, were awarded with an official patent in November, for their latest accomplishment, the Rapid Agent Identification of Nerve Agent detector (RAIDON).

The new technology, U.S. Patent number 8057761, bridges a capability gap in the world of chemical detection, supplementing the currently fielded tactical chemical detection devices. It permits quick discrimination between classes of nerve agents in the field environment once nerve agent is detected.

“There are numerous detectors such as JCAD, ACADA, M256A1 that detect nerve agents, but the problem is they are all vanilla. They don’t tell you what family of nerve agents they fall in,” said Jim Genovese, Leader of the Innovative Development Engineering Acquisition Team.

The M256A1 kit is currently used across the Department of Defense to provide a chemical vapor detection capability at low cost, with minimal training, and without the need for a power source. An improved version, the M256A2 kit, entered production in FY10 to a standard detection method for low volatility solid and liquid agents in the field. However, it still does not provide nerve agent classification capability.

“The RAIDON provides the nerve agent classification information lacking in the existing kits by leveraging the field-proven technology and form/function of the M256A1 kit,” Genovese said. “This then enables tactical users to quickly detect and discriminate nerve agent types in the field once the M256A1 shows nerve agent detection without having to use sophisticated detectors.”

The inventor trio work on the RAIDON began more than six years ago, in 2005, when Genovese identified a requirement and growing need in both the medical and intelligence communities for identifying the speciation of nerve agents. Fielding a detector that is capable of expedient discrimination of nerve agent classes in the field permits more effective medical responses and protective measures tailored to the detected agent’s characteristics.

“The RAIDON can provide a near-term tactical method for discriminating nerve agent and pesticide class at a low cost and with low technical risk,” Ong, co-inventor chemist, said.

The prototype does not require a complicated, expensive, instrumental base, but instead is likened to “retro chemistry” and is something the Warfighter would be able to carry in their pocket. In order to minimize training requirements and enable rapid transition from prototypes to production-ready systems, the RAIDON uses colorimetric chemical reactions similar to the M256A2 kit.

“It is simple and gets the capability to the Warfighter. We are not afraid to try creative and retro methods,” Matthews, Applied Detection Technology team member and co-inventor chemist, said. Genovese lightheartedly describes his team’s approach to the research as “Edisonian,” characterized by “hunt and try” discovery. As the patent recipients of Genovese’s well-intended wild goose chases, Matthews and Ong look back fondly now at the various milestones of success, which eventually led to the development RAIDON.

“We would try more of one thing, less of the other, dry versus wet – it was all a part of going through the rigor to find the best means for classifying the nerve agents,” Matthews said.

While the awarded patent is the “cherry on top” of the team’s past six years of successful research, it is not the end of the three inventors’ story. In fact, it is more of a second beginning. A prototype of the RAIDON currently exists but the team is in need of further funding to refine the chemical concepts and conduct stability testing. For now, the technology does not exist in theater.

As a means of generating buzz around the invention, Genovese presented their research accomplishments to Dr. Charles Hurst, COL (Ret), Chief of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense Chemical Casualty Care Division in the fall of 2009. Hurst’s advocacy for the continued development of the RAIDON technology was clear in a follow-up letter addressed to the Joint Project Manager for Nuclear Biological Chemical Contamination Avoidance.

“To my knowledge these capabilities are unique and are cutting edge. For medical personnel the RAIDON will allow for nerve agent/ cholinergic substance discrimination, greater protection and more efficient and effective treatment regimens resulting in better patient outcomes,” Hurst stated in the letter.

“I believe, Hurst’s words were ‘we needed the RAIDON in the field yesterday’,” Genovese said. “As a valued customer and a key member in the U.S. Army medical community, his support was significant.”
The team remains optimistic that their research will be taken to the next level to develop the RAIDON past a prototype. Between Ong, Matthews and Genovese, they boast an impressive resume of awarded patents and have a thorough understanding of how patents can evolve.

“You can never be too busy to patent your work. In many ways, it can be the most important thing you do,” Genovese said. “Make time to do the needed paperwork to file for a patent. You may get push back, but do your due diligence to stand by your work and its authenticity. You are the subject matter expert.”

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