U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center
World War I saw the introduction of chemical agents on the battlefields in Europe. In 1915, the German Army released chlorine gas on French Terri-torial and Colonial forces in Ypres, Belgium killing and maiming thousands of soldiers, including their own. While European countries continued to use this tactic as the war progressed, the United States didn’t enter the war until 1917 and was unprepared for its use. Severely behind the enemy, the United States Bureau of Mines quickly went to work producing gas masks for the troops, while the War Department created the Chemical Warfare Service and ordered four chemical warfare agent production plants be built on the grounds that came to be Edgewood Arsenal. After the war, all chemical warfare functions were centralized at Edgewood and the newly created Chemical Warfare Service swelled to 1,680 officers and 20,518 enlisted personnel.
Today, the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, (ECBC) is the lead military laboratory for non-medical chemical and biological defense for the Department of Defense (DoD). With more than 1,600 employees and nearly two million square feet of laboratory and chamber space, the Research Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) laboratory “fosters research development, testing, and application of technologies for protecting our military from CB (chemical biological) warfare agents, while leveraging its assets to assist civilian enterprise.”
ECBC is home to over $1.8 billion in state-of-the-art facilities and equipment for full life-cycle support of chemical and biological protection, detection and decontamination. Their capabilities include:
- • Conceptual modeling and animation
- • Rapid prototyping and 3D printing
- • Electronic design and integration
- • Robotics
- • Continuous and operational support for individual protection hardware
- • Decontamination
- • Metal fabrication
- • Pyrotechnic research and development
- • Applied detection technology
- • Agent simulation testing and much more
“Our Technology Transfer Team is ready to help promote collaboration between ECBC and organizations with a variety of agreements and mechanisms,” reports Wienand. In fact, 2011 was a banner year for the ECBC Tech Transfer Team who helped facilitate more than 90 signed agreements with outside partners.
“We offer the perfect solution to the challenges that many businesses face,” says Wienand. “If there’s a new company that has an idea or prototype to bring to market, they can use enlist our help to test without investing thousands or millions of dollars and taking on that risk. For a company already in business, we can extend their capabilities if they want to pursue a client or new project that may require a more extensive laboratory or employee skill set than they have in-house. “
The work conducted at ECBC isn’t limited to defense. Many of the discoveries and improvements originating there wind up helping civilian first responders like firefighters, police, and EMTs. Wienand explains, “In the mid-’90s we helped train first responders and appropriate agencies in 105 cities across the U.S. to respond to a chemical or biological incident and set up mass casualty decontamination processes. This mission now rests with the Department of Justice but our mass casualty decontamination processes and manual are still used to this day.”
Comparable to how prescription drugs have “off-label” uses, the application of the innovations and breakthroughs at ECBC are not always readily apparent. For example, using an onsite 3D printer, or additive manufacturing process, ECBC helped design a prosthetic for a soldier who had his nose blown off in combat. “Our guys have a lot of experience with faces from producing masks to fit unique face shapes,” notes Wienand. “So someone thought, ‘What if I gave you a picture of a solider – could you help us make the scaffolding for his nose?’ We also helped a company that made titanium hips. They called and said they needed more sizes than small, medium and large. We helped them master their own equipment by teaming them with our highly skilled staff. We don’t manufacture any of those things here. We don’t want to compete with industry, but we can help solve the complex problems they might encounter.”
Although “tech transfer” was enacted with the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980, it wasn’t until the amended Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986 that federal and private collaboration took off running with the establishment of cooperative research and development agreements (CRADAs) and the authority to negotiate licensing and patents. Tech transfer got another infusion of life recently with the October 2011 memorandum from President Obama. Titled “Accelerating Technology Transfer and Commercialization of Federal Research in Support of High-Growth Businesses,” the President called for all agencies and departments with federal labs and research and development investments to establish goals and measure progress; streamline the process; and facilitate commercialization though local and regional partnerships.
“We heavily promote ECBC and our capabilities through outreach, social media, traditional marketing and presentations,” assures Wienand. “But tech transfer is really a contact sport. While we get in front of as many people as we possibly can, a lot of times it takes personally bringing people together to get something going.
|ECBC 2011 Accomplishments:• 19 Invention Disclosures Filed• 24 Patent Applications Filed
• 4 Provisional Patent Applications Filed
• Governor’s Service Award for Excellence in Community (MD)
• 9,000 students and 1,000 teachers reached through STEM related programs
ECBC Technology Transfer 2011
• 18 cooperative research and development agreements (CRADA). CRADAs provide a way for private industry to collaborate with U.S. Army research and development activities
• 39 agreements with other government agencies
• 5 patent license agreements (PLA)
• 31 technology support agreements (TSA)
“There was a guy in California trying to prototype socks that surfers could wear to protect them from sting rays. He was having trouble, though, because an adhesive he was using kept breaking down in salt water. He contacted me because I knew his wife. I connected him with people at Natick Soldier Systems Center (another RDECOM laboratory) in Massachusetts because they work on the adhesives used in warfighter body armor. It’s about connecting the dots.”
Other connections to resources occur when companies stumble ECBC uses several ways to construct partnerships with outside entities:
- • Technology Support Agreements (TSAs) provide the private sector with access to facilities and equipment to test their own technologies.
- • Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) allows private industry to collaborate with ECBC, exchanging intellectual property, expertise and data and the ability to hire personnel or rent facilities.
- • Patent License Agreements (PLAs) is the way for a company to license ECBC patented intellectual property for their own use.
- • Other avenues include Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), Interagency Agreement as well as assistance with Small Business Innovative Research (SBIRs) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTRs) to provide funding.
Wienand and his team get excited about the many success stories they can share. One in particular illustrates how a business can really benefit from a relationship with ECBC.
A Maryland bio-tech company, Chesapeake PERL, and ECBC were natural partners as they were separately working on genetic technologies. ECBC had the experience, gene sequences and facilities to demonstrate proof-of-principle of C-PERL’s technology, and C-PERL had a proprietary technology of great interest to ECBC. After establishing a CRADA, ECBC and C-PERL completed a successful proof-of-principle demonstration helping C-PERL obtain more than $1.5 million of private investor funding. “Chesapeake PERL took a $30,000 investment and turned it into nearly $2 million. I’d call that a success story.” I95
|Joseph Wienand, (left) ECBC Technical Director, and Chris Silva, chief executive officer, Allied Minds Federal Innovations, Inc., sign the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement for their organizations.Photo courtesy of RDECOM|
Technology Transfer Office
US Army RDECOM Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center
Office of Research and Technology Applications
A sampling of the companies ECBC has collaborated with:
- • Aragen BioScience, Inc.
- • Block MMS LLC
- • CBI Polymers, Inc.
- • Design West Technologies, Inc.
- • EPITECH, Inc.
- • Fosta-Tek Optics, Inc.
- • GermFree Laboratories, Inc.
- • Herbert Cooper Company, Inc.
- • Ideal Innovations, Inc.
- • Intuitive Research & Technology Corp
- • iRobot Corporation
- • KBI Biopharma, Inc.
- • M Squared Lasers, Inc.
- • Mechanical Resources, Inc.
- • NanoEngineering Corporation
- • OptiMetrics, Inc.
- • Photon Systems, Inc.
- • QuickSilver Analytics, Inc.
- • SpectraFluidics, Inc.
- • TriMech Solutions, LLC
- • Zymetis, Inc.