There, amid the mind-numbing PowerPoint presentations at the Frederick Holiday Inn conference center, lay the future of military medicine: vaccines for deadly diseases, chemical-detecting fish, a "Star Trek"-style medical scanner and Joe, a blood-spewing manikin meant to train battle medics.
Inventors and biotechnology scientists, some of them working at nearby Fort Detrick, showed off their wares yesterday to business leaders and government procurement officers who could license and sell the technology.
While other bases across the country worry about being closed, business at Fort Detrick, the Army's main medical research center, is booming, especially since the beginning of the war on terror.
"Since 9/11, our biodefense and chemical defense labs have seen a huge boost in the number of companies that do business with them," said Paul C. Mele, the director of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command's Office of Research and Technology Applications.
Many of the civilian biotech engineers are working with support from the state-funded Maryland Technology Development Corp., which gives $50,000 grants to universities and companies developing technology. The corporation sponsored yesterday's event.
Mele's office is responsible for sifting through scores of research proposals submitted by the public and choosing the ones the Army could use. Not all of the proposals pan out, he said: One person said he had developed a single vaccine for virtually every disease, including HIV, and a few have claimed to have developed devices that can see through walls.
But a few of the inventions work out, such as the camouflage face paint that also is an insect repellent and sunscreen, and digital dog tags that can store a soldier's entire medical record in a microchip.
Other inventions, like Joe, the manikin, have yet to prove themselves.
While about 300 people weathered the barrage of PowerPoint slides inside the conference center, Kelsey Gregis and Gracie Everitt were out in the lobby trying to save the manikin.
"Hurry, guys!" yelled Army Sgt. Lynn King, who watched the untrained civilians go to work. They struggled to put a pressure bandage on the soldier's mangled foot, which was spraying blood.
"Is it still bleeding?" King asked.
"Yes!" Gregis cried. Blood ran all over a green mat on the floor and onto her black dress. The manikin's face was frozen in an expression of terrible pain, as blood flowed from a second wound in his arm.
"Come on, Joe, work with me!" Gregis said. "Joe!"
Suddenly, it was over. "I think Joe's done bleeding," King said.
"We killed the guy," Gregis said as she snapped off her blood-smeared blue latex gloves.
Yesterday was the first time King, an eight-year Army veteran responsible for training other medics, had shown his creepy creation to the public. He built the dummy from spare parts, he said, because he wanted to add a level of realism to his training.
"First time I brought this out, they froze," King said of his troops. "But once they were done, they were saying, 'I want to do it again.' "
Not in this well-dressed crowd, though. "Anybody want to stop some bleeding?" King asked onlookers. The spectators stared at his invention, fascinated and frightened.