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Battelle Applied Genomics Today

Battelle Applied Genomics Today

Featured Expert: Dr. Jill Harvilchuck: Research Leader

Dr. Jill Harvilchuck Jill Harvilchuck

Chemical warfare agents and other toxins present tremendous dangers for military personnel working in war zones. Dr. Jill Harvilchuck is working to bring new medical countermeasures to market to better protect soldiers and civilians.

Jill is Research Leader for the Highly Toxic Materials group at the Battelle Biomedical Research Center (BBRC). Her work focuses primarily on development of countermeasures for chemical warfare agents such as nerve agents. Currently, she is leading a project to study the efficacy of pyridostigmine bromide for use as a pre-treatment for exposure to various chemical agents. Pyridostigmine is already approved for use against soman (GD), a highly toxic nerve agent that has a long history of use in warfare. Jill’s studies could lead to expanded licensure so it could be approved for use against other chemical agents. She is also leading a project for the use of scopolamine as a potential post-treatment adjunct for nerve agent exposure. 

Because the compounds she works with are so toxic, most of the work Jill does is conducted under the FDA animal rule, an alternate licensure pathway used in cases where it is not feasible or ethical to conduct efficacy studies on humans. As a Research Leader, she ensures that studies are properly designed for FDA approval of the medical countermeasure. Since joining Battelle in 2009, she has worked on dozens of studies involving chemical and biological threat agents, including anthrax, soman and other highly toxic or pathogenic agents. She recently completed a large animal radiolabeled ADME (absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion) study that provided new insights on where toxic compounds end up in the body and how they are broken down that will guide development of future countermeasures. She says one of the most meaningful projects she has worked on was a study for the DoD to define procedures for safely bringing home the bodies of soldiers contaminated by chemical warfare agents.

Jill’s work on medical countermeasures for the military is highly personal for her. Prior to joining Battelle, she served four years on active duty in the U.S. Air Force. During her active duty years, she managed nuclear weapons systems and developed training for nuclear and radiological materials as a Space and Missiles Officer. Since leaving active duty in 2004, she has continued to serve in the U.S. Air Force Reserves and currently is a Chemical Weapons and Medical SME for an intelligence unit with Strategic Command’s Center for Combatting Weapons of Mass Destruction. In this role, she acts as a subject matter expert on chemical weapons, analyzes WMD threats and is an instructor for a CBRN Medical Effects course for DoD medical personnel. Her military service has given her insight into the dangers faced by combat personnel and the specific needs they have in the field. She was recently promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.

Jill holds a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. in Toxicology from Purdue University, along with a number of military certifications. She has authored numerous publications on the effects of chemical warfare agents and medical countermeasures. She is an adjunct faculty member at Wright State University, where she teaches a graduate course in toxicology.