About 50 proposals for more Gulf
War medical research in peer review

WASHINGTON, March 21, 1997 (GulfLINK) - About 50 proposals for new research into Gulf War illnesses are now undergoing peer review.

The U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command issued a call to medical researchers in December and January to make proposals for specific research programs. A total of $16.5 million was made available for research on four specific topics:

Investigation of links between the illnesses reported by Gulf War veterans and their exposure to: chemical warfare agents; hazardous materials; stress; and potentially hazardous combinations of inoculations (anthrax and botulinum toxin) with investigational new drugs pyridostigmine bromide.

Animal studies on the long-term or delayed health effects of exposure to small quantities of chemical warfare agents (low level exposures are defined as measurable exposures to chemical agents which are insufficient to cause acute signs or symptoms);

Analysis of the feasibility of epidemiological research in humans, including those who were present near Khamisiyah, Iraq, when Iraqi chemical agent stocks were blown up in March 1991; and

Research on illnesses after past wars, including investigation of "factors which create a confluence of cognitive, emotional, and physical factors to produce chronic, non-specific symptoms and physiological outcomes (e.g., neurologic, immunologic and endocrine responses)."

The deadlines for receiving proposals on the first three topics were in February and early March. The Army Medical Research Command said it had received about 50 proposals from qualified medical researchers. Those proposals have now been distributed to other medical scientists-both from the government and from the private sector-who are putting the proposals through peer review, a process whereby experts judge whether the proposals are scientifically valid and the applicants are sufficiently skilled to tackle the work.

The deadline for submission of proposals for the fourth area of research is April 30.

Craig Lebo of the Research Command said he expected many of the 50 proposals to complete peer review and that the command would issue multiple contracts or grants for work in each one of the four areas before the end of September.

The Army has $9.5 million available for studies on the first topic, $2 million available for studies on the second and third combined, and $5 million available for the fourth topic.

Customarily, research of this type takes two to four years to complete, the Research Command said.

More than 80 research projects on Gulf War illnesses are already underway or have been completed by scientists in private institutions, in the Defense Department or in the Department of Veterans Affairs.