The DOD Blast Injury Research Coordinating Office (BIRCO) continues to support the responsibilities of the DOD Executive Agent (EA) for Blast Injury Research by fostering collaboration and information sharing between research communities, promoting partnerships, disseminating critical information, and shaping future research priorities to fill knowledge gaps across the entire spectrum of blast injury research.
BIRCO will continue as the Office of Primary Responsibility for Line of Inquiry (LOI) 2: Weapon Systems, part of the National Defense Authorization Act Blast Overpressure Studies (NDAA BOS) effort led by OASD(HA). In this role, BIRCO's objectives are to 1) coordinate, collate, and analyze information on blast pressure resulting from high kinetic weapons and events, and 2) inform strategies to account for emerging research on the effects of blast pressure exposure on health and performance. BIRCO works with weapon system program managers, DOD Range Safety Offices, Unit Commanders, and subject matter experts from the medical, research, materiel development, operational, and Test & Evaluation communities to identify, coordinate, and collect information on Tier 1 Weapon Systems related to safety precautions and effects of blast exposure.
BIRCO will continue the MHS Blast Injury Prevention Standard Recommendation (BIPSR) Process for auditory blast injury and dermal burns. The MHS BIPSR Process is the DOD's first unbiased, stakeholder-driven critical assessment methodology for recommending biomedically valid blast injury prevention standards. These standards support weapon system Health Hazard Assessments, combat platform occupant survivability assessments, and personal protective equipment development and performance testing.
BIRCO will continue chairing the DOD Computational Modeling of Human Lethality, Injury, and Impairment from Blast-related Threats Working Group to shape, focus, and coordinate efforts to enable a capability for the computational modeling and simulation of human lethality, injury, and impairment resulting from the entire spectrum of blast-related threats and environments, from initial point of interaction with the blast hazard to return-to-routine.
Building on previous successes with NATO Human Factors and Medicine (HFM) Panel Research Technical Groups (RTG), BIRCO will chair the NATO HFM-341 RTG, Validation of Modeling and Simulation Methodologies for Human Lethality, Injury, and Impairment from Blast-Related Threats, which will commence in 2021. The objective of this RTG is to develop standardized methodologies and criteria to validate computational models and simulation approaches for the entire spectrum of blast-related injuries to mounted and dismounted military personnel. The outcomes will be an approach and criteria to validate component computational models and simulation techniques.
In addition, BIRCO will co-chair the newly formed NATO HFM-Exploratory Team-192 with the U.S. Army Military Operational Medicine Research Program. The primary purpose of this exploratory team - Blast Exposure Monitoring in Military Training and Operations - is to understand Service members' occupational health hazards resulting from repetitive use of weapon systems and explosives during their military career. The secondary purpose is to recommend a need for further exploration for strategies to prevent injury, mitigate unnecessary exposures, and sustain Service members' brain health and performance.
BIRCO plans to help initiate the next phase of the US-India Defense Trade and Technology Initiative project on Experimental and Computational Models of Blast and Blunt TBI. A comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms of injury after exposure to blast overpressure can inform development of effective personal protective equipment designed to prevent or mitigate mTBI, tools for rapidly screening and diagnosing Service members involved in potentially concussive events, and effective therapies for treating and rehabilitating mTBI. Collaborators achieved the major research goals for Phase I of the effort in 2020 and plan to initiate the next phase of the effort on in-depth experimental and computational modeling studies of repeated blast exposure and polytrauma.
The DOD Brain Health Research Coordinator will work on behalf of the EA to promote, support, and coordinate brain health research and development to yield solutions that improve Service members' brain health in training, in combat, and at home. For example, they will advise on the development of a path for safe and effective implementation of the Laboratory Assay for Traumatic Brain Injury (LATBI), a product development effort managed by USAMMDA. As another example, the Brain Health Research Coordinator will serve as a key stakeholder for the FY21 Peer Reviewed Traumatic Brain Injury and Psychological Health Research Program (TBIPHRP). The TBIPHRP is a Congressional appropriation managed by the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs that is focused on research into the prevention, detection, and treatment of traumatic brain injury and improved psychological health for Service members, veterans, and the public. In addition, the Brain Health Research Coordinator will continue their involvement in DOD's Warfighter Brain Health Capabilities-Based Assessment process to propose solutions to requirements and gaps in DOD's ability to monitor, optimize, restore and support brain health.
BIRCO will also host the tenth International State-of-the-Science Meeting, Multi-Spatial Scale Computational Modeling of Human Response to Blast Exposure (Cell–Tissue–Organ–Whole Body). This topic ties together several BIRCO initiatives related to computational modeling of blast events and blast injury. The meeting will include plenary sessions with keynote, topic, and scientific presentations; a poster session; and working groups led by expert panel members. Findings and recommendations developed by the expert panel based on the presentations and working group discussions will be published and made available here.
BIRCO will continue activity on the International Forum on Blast Injury Countermeasures (IFBIC) Organizing Committee. This committee is a multi-nation expansion of the original Japan-U.S. Technical Information Exchange Forum on Blast Injury, through which BIRCO has been collaborating with the National Defense Medical College of the Japan Self-Defense Forces since 2016. The second IFBIC in 2021 will be the fifth meeting of the Japan-U.S. Technical Information Exchange Forum on Blast Injury. IFBIC enables the exchange of knowledge and expertise, and the sharing of national experiences and evidence-based approaches toward the mutual advancement of care for blast injuries.
BIRCO will help solve complex blast injury problems by leveraging the innovative talents of our nation's small technology companies through the DOD Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs. An example of an STTR program managed by BIRCO is the Biomechanical Rat Testing Device to Validate Primary Blast Loading Conditions for Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. This project is developing a biomechanical rat model surrogate to measure blast loading and enable cross-correlation of results across different test conditions and research groups.
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