The earliest laboratories were first under the direction of the Bureau of Mines (1917) and later under a part of the Gas Defense Service of the Army Medical Department (1918). In October 1922, the Medical Research Division was organized at Edgewood Arsenal to study the pharmacological actions of chemical threat agents, to develop treatments for gassed casualties, and to provide the information obtained to Army Medical Corps personnel. During this period, Edgewood Arsenal became the Department of Defense center for chemical defense research, development, and testing operations.
During World War II, emphasis on finding methods to prevent and treat chemical casualties increased. This emphasis continued after World War II, when the Soviets seized stocks of German-developed nerve agents and appropriated the technology for their manufacture.
The United States Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, known then as the United States Army Biomedical Laboratory, moved into a new research and headquarters building in 1968.
In 1979, the United States Army Surgeon General became the Department of Defense Executive Agent for all aspects of medical chemical defense and the United States Army Medical Research and Development Command assumed responsibility for this function. The Institute was given its present name and designated the lead laboratory for medical chemical defense technology base programs by Permanent Orders 8-1, Office of the Surgeon General, Department of the Army, dated 11 May 1981.
As a result of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act, the Institute became the nation’s center of excellence for medical chemical defense. In 2009, ground was broken for a new 526,000-square-foot replacement facility, which was officially opened in 2015. The new laboratory consolidates the Institute’s capabilities into a single facility with state-of-the-art laboratories and technologies, thereby enhancing the Institute’s research, consultation, and training efforts, which continue to provide the United States Soldier with the most effective medical protection against chemical threats in history.