Firefighting Technology: Chemical Threats, Cyanide Poisoning

Miniaturized Chemical Threat Identifier

Portability, high-speed, high-resolution gas chromatography (GC) and a miniaturized toroidal ion trap mass spectrometer (MS) combine in the GUARDION portable chemical threat detector by Smiths Detection to enhance military and emergency response capabilities in the field. The device can confirm the presence and identity of chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals in gases, vapors, liquids, and solids. Mal Maginnis, president of Smiths Detection, explains that GUARDION greatly expands the company’s portfolio of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosives (CBRNE) detection technologies.

Smiths Detection partnered with Torion Technologies (American Fork, Utah) to miniaturize, ruggedize, and optimize the GC/MS technology and the specialized software that makes GUARDION easy to use. A GC/MS Center of Excellence recently established at Smiths Detection’s facility in Danbury, Connecticut, is home to an integrated team of engineers, researchers, manufacturing, and product managers who contributed to the development of GUARDION and the ongoing advancement of GC/MS portable technology. Many of Smiths Detection’s specialized systems that serve military and emergency responders are developed at this facility.

GUARDION, almost a quarter lighter than comparable systems, is about the size of a small carry-on suitcase. It requires minimal maintenance, has a start-up time of five minutes, and can analyze up to 30 samples on a single battery charge.

For more information and technical specifications, visit:

Sulfanegen: Cyanide Poisoning Antidote

Based on research conducted at the Center for Drug Design at the University of Minnesota, Vytacera Pharma, Inc., will develop and market Sulfanegen, a treatment for cyanide poisoning. First responders could administer Sulfanegen in the case of a mass-casualty emergency or to victims of smoke inhalation from a house fire.

According to a press release from the University, the key to survival for cyanide-poisoning victims is rapid and appropriate treatment, but current treatments for cyanide poisoning require an intravenous injection by a highly trained medical professional, and can take upward of 20 minutes to take effect.

Steve Patterson, co-inventor of the antidote and associate director of the University’s Center for Drug Design, where Sulfanegen was invented, explains:

There is no effective cyanide antidote that can be administered rapidly. In the case of a mass-casualty situation, the emergency responders wouldn’t be able to treat most of the victims. Sulfanegen can be administered rapidly by intramuscular injection, so emergency responders could treat people faster. And it takes far less skill to use an autoinjector than it does for an intravenous injection.

The antidote is said to function also as a prophylactic and could protect emergency personnel if taken prior to cyanide exposure.

Jon S. Saxe, chairman of Vytacera, a start-up company, says that the company “intends to move forward as rapidly as financing and regulations permit.”

Sulfanegen will require Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, but the University says the drug candidate has rapid approval potential under the FDA Animal Rule, which holds that only animal efficacy experiments and Phase I safety clinical trials are required for regulatory approval. The compound, the release notes, has already demonstrated safety and efficacy in several animal models.

Sulfanegen was invented by Patterson; Robert Vince, director of the Center for Drug Design; and Herbert Nagasawa, adjunct at the Center for Drug Design and adjunct professor of medicinal chemistry. The research was funded by the Center for Drug Design and the National Institutes of Health CounterACT (Countermeasures Against Chemical Threats) program, an effort involving a number of National Institutes of Health components designed to enhance the nation’s diagnostic and treatment response capabilities during a chemical emergency. The technology was licensed exclusively to Vytacera by the University’s Office for Technology Commercialization. Additional information is available from John Merritt, Office of the Vice President for Research, (612) 624-2609, and Jeff Falk, University News Service, (612) 626-1720.

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MARY JANE DITTMAR is senior associate editor of Fire Engineering and conference manager of FDIC. Before joining the magazine in January 1991, she served as editor of a trade magazine in the health/nutrition market and held various positions in the educational and medical advertising fields. She has a bachelor’s degree in English/journalism and a master’s degree in communication arts.

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