Burns are among the most painful and debilitating battlefield wounds and often turn deadly if infection sets in. In an effort to speed up the development of revolutionary new treatments for burns and other common battlefield injuries, the Defense Department launched AFIRM in 2008.
Just 3 years into the program, AFIRM is seeing big signs of success as it helps advance technologies that use laboratory-grown tissues and biosynthetically developed compounds to treat injuries and illnesses. The ultimate aim of regenerative medicine is to enable patients’ bodies to re-grow bones, skin and tissues even whole organs and limbs.
The Bottom Line: 10 clinical trials already are under way or about to start in 5 areas specific to wounded warrior care with 3 focused on burn repair. With funding from the Army Medical Research and Material Command, as well as the Navy, Air Force, NIH, Department of Veterans Affairs and other public and private entities, AFIRM is helping advance technologies over the gap referred to as the “valley of death”. 2 research consortia, made up of some of the best and brightest minds from 31 universities, are partnering with the U.S. Army Institute for Surgical Research at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to help bridge that gap. 1of the new clinical trials, now entering its 2nd phase, involves spraying a patient’s own healthy cells onto the burned area. 7 patients already are enrolled in the trial, with a quota of 106 to participate based on the FDA protocol. As many as a dozen hospitals will be involved in the trial, with the Army Institute for Surgical Research expected to join it this summer. The technologies being advanced by AFIRM all have to go through a long FDA approval process and won’t be delivered to the marketplace for at least 3 to 5 years. However, the goal is to get an industry partner to step in and pick up where these military initiatives leave off.