The National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) at the University of Nebraska is contributing its biological decontamination testing expertise and experience to the development of a new biomedical device that will allow for rapid sterilization of medical equipment in theater.
The concept, created and led by the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Indian Head Division with funding from the Army’s Combat Casualty Research Program in the Medical Research and Development Command, includes collaboration with scientists from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL).
The primary objective of the multi-year effort is to develop an energetics material-based device for rapid disinfection of surgical instruments in order to improve survival and recovery from combat-related injury in current and future operations scenarios.
"Thanks to the creativity of our colleagues at NSWC, we have this incredible opportunity to help think through and build a device that can improve the medical care injured service men and women receive on the battlefield," said Misty Bensman, NSRI senior scientist. "It’s also targeted at improving logistics and efficiency for biomedical units."
Commonly, sterilization of medical tools is achieved using autoclave systems, requiring a specific supply of power and water and extended time of one to two hours. Other methods include chemical vapor exposure requiring approximately 30 minutes and bulky equipment. These constraints limit practical use of these systems to field hospitals having a steady power supply. The long cycle times and limited number of surgical kits can result in a critical shortage of sterile instruments during mass casualty situations.
The vision for the new device is that it is placed in a surgical toolkit, activated to release hot biocidal vapors that coat all surfaces of the surgical tools and, after several minutes, cool down to allow handling and use by the medical personnel. The approach of using energetic materials to disperse biological decontamination agents is being repurposed from a previous program in a different field.
"Our colleagues are taking a solution from a completely different concept of operations and scenario and thinking outside the box to apply it to this particular challenge,” said Zach Minter, NSRI senior scientist. “It’s an exciting project to be part of."
Minter and Bensman will provide the biological efficacy tests needed to determine how well the device performs throughout its development, key technical considerations to meet FDA regulations. Together, they bring forward more than 25 years of experience in defense-related scientific research.
"We really appreciate the opportunity to provide our expertise to this project with our colleagues from NSWC and Johns Hopkins APL," said Maj. Gen., USAF (Ret.) Rick Evans, NSRI executive director. "This project is such a great example of NSRI contributing its expertise directly to helping keep our warfighters safe."
Learn more about NSRI’s biological defense capabilities at nsri.nebraska.edu/biodefense.
About the National Strategic Research Institute
Through the National Strategic Research Institute at the University of Nebraska leading scientists deliver innovative national security research, technology, product and strategy development, training and exercises, and subject matter expertise to the Department of Defense and other federal agencies. One of only 14 DOD-designated University Affiliated Research Centers in the country, NSRI is sponsored by U.S. Strategic Command and works to ensure the United States’ safety and preparedness against increasingly sophisticated threats. Read about our mission.