By Mr. Jeffrey M Soares (Army Medicine)November 7, 2018
The Pharmaceutical Systems Project Management Office of the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity at Fort Detrick, Maryland, remains focused on the development of pharmaceutical products that are critical for maintaining the strength and readiness of our nation's military forces. Serving as a subordinate command of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, USAMMDA continues its mission to develop and deliver quality medical capabilities to protect, treat and sustain the health of Service Members throughout the world.
In our continuing spotlight series, USAMMDA's public affairs team recently sat down with Louis Jasper, deputy project manager of the PSPMO, for his perspective on the work of his team and the various projects on which they are working. Jasper was very forthcoming with his responses, and the information he provided shed light on a number of important products.
PAO: What is the role of USAMMDA's Pharmaceutical Systems Project Management Office?
LJ: The PSPMO is an advanced development team, and our mission is to develop pharmaceutical products such as drugs, vaccines and diagnostics -- and blood and resuscitation products -- through advanced clinical testing and manufacturing, and deliver these to our Warfighters.
PAO: What are the responsibilities of a product manager in the PSPMO?
LJ: A product manager in the PSPMO is really one of the best jobs you can have within the command, in my experience. I've been with USAMMDA for a number of years, in various roles, and I think being a product manager has been my favorite. You get to lead teams, and it's these teams that are developing the products that are going to save lives, so that's great by itself. But you actually touch upon every aspect of development. You get to do a little bit of the science; you also deal with business agreements, as we work with our Office of Research and Technology Agreements team. We also work with our USAMRMC Technology Transfer folks, and we establish licensing agreements with large companies. And of course, we work with contracting as well. So, as a product manager, you get the whole breadth of everything required to develop a product. Although you do get more of a U.S. government "flavor" of this, you also get to work with industry too. It's just a tremendously interesting job.
PAO: What is the PSPMO's overall mission and goal?
LJ: I think that Pharmaceutical Systems is one of the more mature PMOs, as we've been around for quite a while. Dr. Lawrence Lightner, who leads the PSPMO, is the project manager, and he's been very good in organizing our business processes. We have a very good way of doing things here, kind of a "pharm way," you could say. And we're very committed to the mission, and the mission always takes priority, as you can see by some of the recent successes that we've had. We're committed, and we have a system that works.
PAO: Can you detail some of the current products managed by the PSPMO?
LJ: We've had some recent successes in the PSPMO. The first one that comes to mind is the Leishmaniasis Rapid Diagnostic Device. This is a device you can use out in the field; it's a point-of-care rapid diagnostic test. Essentially, you can take a sample from a Leishmania lesion that someone might have anywhere on the body, on their skin. The sample is placed in the device for testing, and about 15 to 20 minutes later you get a result that shows whether or not you actually have the disease, or something else, so that you can be treated accordingly.
We also have another product that has been fielded, the Adenovirus Vaccine, to prevent acute febrile respiratory illness. This is a product that we administer to our recruits in basic training. Prior to implementation of the vaccine, we had several hundred cases of adenovirus among our recruits each year, and occasionally a death. So, when new troops are going through basic training, there is a lot of turnover from one class to another, and that happens to be a great environment for adenoviruses. The vaccine is 99 percent effective and has essentially eliminated all of these cases among recruits in all Services, including the Coast Guard.
Also, Tafenoquine, an antimalarial drug, was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This is taken once a week, and is effective against all species and stages of malaria. This drug was just approved last month and should be fielded very soon.
PAO: Are there any new products on the horizon?
LJ: We've been working with a company on a drug called Sufentanil, which is a pain management drug, and we expect this to be FDA-approved and fielded in the near future. And we're also working on a number of other products, such as Intravenous Artesunate, which is drug for the treatment of malaria, and a vaccine against Dengue. So, we have a large breadth of products that we cover, which are intended not only to save lives throughout our military, but to maintain their health and prevent the illness from ever occurring. Our objective is to keep troops in the field, ready to fight the battle.
PAO: How do you feel about your work, and the work of the PSPMO team?
LJ: It's really great working within the PSPMO, because we have such a wide breadth of products. We also have blood products in the works as well, with freeze-dried plasma and cryopreserved platelets. We have all this, and we're working on vaccines -- with some big commercial partners -- and we do a lot with drug efforts. So, we manage an extensive range of products that not only are very interesting but also have the great potential to save lives.