Yale to study mass casualty prevention strategies through Italian partnership

The collaboration with Rome’s Tor Vergata University will focus on the development of global military response training, detection strategies, antidotes and treatment at major events.

James Steele and Esma Okutan

11:05 p.m. September 20, 2022

Contributing reporters

Yale Daily News

The Yale Schools of Medicine and Public Health partnered with the University of Rome Tor Vergata, or URTV, to explore methods of preventing mass casualties from chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive events, or CBRNe events.

The new collaboration will be led by Vasilis Vasiliou, a chair of the Yale School of Public Health Department, and Francesco d’Errico, Professor of Nuclear Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and Medical Physics at the University of Pisa. You will work with Leonardo Palombi, Andrea Malizia, Pasquale Gaudio and Colomba Russo, all of whom are professors at URTV.

“There are many threats on the horizon, either chemical threats or nuclear threats… We need to be sure we are prepared for them,” Vasiliou said.

These scientists aim to explore CBRNe events and current methods of inhibiting their effects in order to limit CBRNe generation, uncover the possible uses of CBRNes, and mitigate the consequences of a CBRNe event. Once conclusive research and results are available, the findings will likely change the way law enforcement and military units are trained to deal with such events.

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Vasiliou pointed to the war in Ukraine and political tensions between North and South Korea to illustrate the possibility of regional conflicts that could threaten global health.

“The whole idea is [to research] how we develop detection, antidote [and] treatments and how we can produce that worldwide,” Vasiliou told the News. “We have to educate people how to deal with it [events].”

He went on to discuss Israel’s strong preparedness for nuclear events, contrasting it with that of the United States and Europe to indicate the urgent need for more CBRNe research in those countries. D’Errico added that the COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the lack of coordinated international infrastructure and the need for global health preparedness and prevention research.

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“I think something can be improved in the US [and Europe is that] There is a great lack of standardization in the training and preparation of the expert,” said Malizia. “It is important to continue to push the creation of many more possible joint trainings and many more possible technologies and metals to be used in case of CBRNe events.”

The collaboration was inspired by the recent rise in access to the technology needed to create raw weapons and dirty bombs – a type of explosive that combines conventional explosives with radiological material to contaminate a large area. Researchers expect teams like the one formed between URTV and Yale will prove crucial in understanding the implications of this rapid spread of information and the greater availability of advanced explosives.

Above all, the scientists want to develop completely new training and education programs based on table-top exercises. This is done to more accurately test and improve the readiness of the experts involved in these CBRNe events. In addition to improving training methods and standardization, the team hopes to pave the way for new technologies to identify sources of biological substances, chemical materials and ionizing radiation.

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As part of this goal, the collaboration includes faculty development projects focused on creating courses and mentorship for CBRNe event training. According to Vasiliou, these projects will not only help train health professionals and students, but also state and federal agencies in the long term.

“[URTV] is much more involved in developing detection and response mechanisms for chemical threats,” d’Errico said. “There is a lot of work at Yale in the area of ​​biological threats as well as radiological and nuclear. Yale also has an interest in developing educational programs that include training in preparation for CBRNe detection. In Rome they have this program, so there will certainly be an effort to integrate our areas of expertise.”

This partnership is the first between Yale and URTV.

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