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Real-Time Sample-Mining and Data-Mining Approaches for the Discovery of Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS)

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2020, $555,401)

Drug use in the United States is a major contributor to morbidity and mortality among vulnerable populations. The use of drugs has remained a continuous phenomenon with forensic and legal consequences, but the drugs involved in crimes and their patterns of use continue to change. This change is especially apparent when considering the emergence and turnover of synthetic drugs, often referred to as new or novel psychoactive substances (NPS). Keeping current with the latest illicit drug landscape is one of the greatest technical challenges facing forensic toxicologist and chemists. This proposal undertakes to enhance prior work in method development, validation, and application. Our approach will develop tools and workflows for the identification of the newest emerging substances, characterize their appearance in forensic toxicology casework, and rapidly share methods, analytical data, and toxicological data with scientific, medical, and legal communities. Our laboratory will partner with medical examiners, coroners, toxicologists, and forensic laboratories across the United States (including NMS Labs) to acquire and analyze authentic human biological specimens (e.g., blood and urine) from forensic investigations. Liquid chromatography quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (LC-QTOF-MS) and liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) will be used for instrumental analysis. The discovery of emerging NPS will be initiated through surveillance initiatives, followed by the monitoring of NPS to determine trends, combinations, and other drug use characteristics. The metabolism of previously unreported NPS will be studied to determine appropriate metabolites for addition to scopes of toxicology testing. Confirmation methods will be developed and validated for rapid dissemination and implementation among forensic laboratories. In addition, the analysis of authentic samples will be performed to determine reference concentration ranges — a vital piece of information needed by the forensic toxicology community. The accumulated data and reports will be consolidated to produce “NPS Toolkits” which will serve as blueprints or road maps for scientists, clinicians, practitioners, and other stakeholders with interest in emerging information about the substances studied. Extensive dissemination of the results to forensic science, criminal justice, public health, and public safety communities will occur. The products of this research will be open-access to forensic science and criminal justice partners, and the developed reports will be archived on the internet for long-term access. Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law, and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14). CA/NCF

Date Created: October 22, 2020