UM Researcher Receives $3.8M Grant to Investigate Therapeutics for Neurotoxic Chemical Exposure

September 08, 2015

MISSOULA – A new, five-year $3.8 million grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has been awarded to a research team led by University of Montana Professor Chuck Thompson.

The grant will be used to support research that investigates new chemical and imaging technologies to understand how poisonous chemical agents known as organophosphates (OPs) enter the brain and how antidotes and therapeutics can be used to reduce neurotoxic effects to OP exposure.

Thompson’s research team includes Henry VanBrocklin from the University of California, San Francisco; Kurt Zinn from University of Alabama at Birmingham; and John Gerdes from the Southern Research Institute.  

Companies historically have used OPs as pesticides, but they also are major components of chemical nerve agents used by terrorist groups and rogue nations. The investigation will draw from the researchers’ collaborative expertise to transform the toxic OPs into safe, beneficial imaging technologies that lead to highly useful clinical tools and therapeutic inventions. 

Central to the award is the use of positron emission tomography imaging to evaluate OP exposures and the efficacy of the therapeutics. PET imaging is widely used in cancer diagnosis and to determine the progress of certain neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. However this research is the first to use PET imaging to study toxic OPs. The researchers are hopeful their PET imaging investigation will unveil important brain characteristics about susceptibility to toxic agents while guiding drug development to halt or reverse toxic effects following OP exposure. 

Contact: Chuck Thompson, professor, UM Department of Biomedical & Pharmaceutical Sciences, 406-243-4643,