Enzyme-based decontamination technology for organophosphorus nerve agents and pesticides

Award Year 

With an increasing need to respond quickly and efficiently to real-world threats such as a deliberate chemi-cal warfare agent attack or accidental release of toxic industrial chemicals, the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) developed a patented technology to neutralize organophosphorus chemical agents and pesticides. This enzyme-based technology sim-plifies and improves the process of decontaminating a class of highly tox-ic chemicals, including nerve agents. Other decontamination methods use corrosive chemicals that are more (more) costly, less efficient, and generate a substantial amount of residual waste. The ECBC technology is nontoxic, noncorrosive, and environ-mentally safe. It can be ap-plied using existing wa-ter-based ap-plication sys-tems such as firefighting foams and sprays, and aircraft deicing solutions. In an inci-dent where highly toxic chemicals are released, the enzymes quickly neu-tralize the chemicals before they can contaminate a wider area. While initially intended for decontami-nating equipment, facilities and large areas, the enzymes could potentially be used in shower systems for decon-taminating personnel and casualties.Having invented this enzyme-based decontamination technology, ECBC needed a commercialization partner to license and enhance the manufactur-ing process to drive down the unit cost of the material—an important require-ment for broad adoption of the technology. Genencor International, Inc., the leading manufacturer of industrial and specialty enzymes in the United States, was contacted to explore the possibility of licensing and manufactur-ing the technology. Genencor agreed to license the technology and use its state-of-the-art fermentation plants for the manufacturing process. Genencor met its production milestone and is now successfully producing the licensed enzymatic decontamination technology under the trademark DE-FENZ™. This product is being pur-chased by companies that produce and sell firefighting foams and sprays and other matrices. These compa-nies, in turn, are formulating the en-zymes into products for purchase by fire departments, HAZMAT groups, and others in the first responder com-munity. The first commercial decon-taminant that incorporates the en-zymes (All-Clear™) was introduced into the market by Kidde Fire Fighting, Inc., in August 2005. (less)