DARPA invests in a lot of bioengineering projects

  • The ADEPT program aims to create the technology base required to help medical professionals outpace the spread of natural or engineered diseases and toxins.”
  • Living Foundries seeks to transform biology into an engineering practice by developing the tools, technologies, methodologies, and infrastructure to speed the biological design-built-test-learn cycle and expand the complexity of systems that can be engineered.”
  • The IVN program seeks to develop new classes of adaptable nanoparticles for persistent, distributed, unobtrusive physiologic and environmental sensing, as well as the treatment of physiologic abnormalities, illness and infectious disease.”
  • The ElectRx program aims to establish a new biomedical, therapeutic capability to improve physical and mental health by using targeted stimulation of the peripheral nervous system to exploit the body’s natural ability to quickly and effectively heal itself.”
  • “In this context, the Biochronicity program will explore the role of time in biological functions in pursuit of breakthroughs in managing the effects of time on human physiology.”
  • The ThoR program seeks to discover biological mechanisms of host tolerance to catalyze the development of novel host-based interventions against emerging pathogens and potential biological threat agents.”
  • "The Reliable Peripheral Interfaces (RPI) effort seeks to demonstrate peripheral-nervous-system (PNS) interfaces that can reliably extract motor-control information for intuitive control of high-performance upper-limb prosthetics. This effort includes a variety of PNS-interface approaches such as nerve cuffs, penetrating electrode arrays, regenerative interfaces, tissue-engineered biological constructs, non-penetrating devices, invasive electromyography (EMG) and sensory-input (stimulation) systems. "
  • The Reorganization and Plasticity to Accelerate Injury Recovery (REPAIR) program aims to uncover the mechanisms underlying neural computation and reorganization to improve modeling of the brain and our ability to interface with it. Current models of the brain based on invasive measurements are region specific and compartmentalized, while noninvasive measurements are used to build descriptive models of how the brain behaves with low degrees of specificity. New approaches to multiregion, multiscale recording present an opportunity to determine the sequencing of neural signaling from initial cues through task completion, and correlate these neuron-level signals to changes in brain activity. These approaches could lead to new classes of devices that rehabilitate individuals following brain injury, restore impaired sensory function, and manipulate external systems, such as robotic arms, at much faster rates than conventional interfaces.”
  • “Novel chemical and biological weapons have historically been mass-produced within a year of discovery. Using current methods and technologies, researchers would require decades of study to gain a cellular-level understanding of how new threat agents exert their effects. This temporal gap between threat emergence, mechanistic understanding and potential treatment leaves U.S. forces vulnerable. DARPA launched the Rapid Threat Assessment (RTA) program with an aggressive goal for researchers: develop methods and technologies that can, within 30 days of exposure to a human cell, map the complete molecular mechanism through which a threat agent alters cellular processes.”
  • “The end goal of RAM is to develop and test a wireless, fully implantable neural-interface medical device for human clinical use, but a number of significant advances will be targeted on the way to achieving that goal. To start, DARPA will support the development of multi-scale computational models with high spatial and temporal resolution that describe how neurons code declarative memories”
  • The Prophecy program seeks to transform the vaccine and drug development enterprise from observational and reactive to predictive and preemptive by spurring development of a multidisciplinary approach to predicting viral evolution.”

“Dr. Justin Gallivan, Program Manager in DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office (BTO), discusses how biology can be tapped to yield breakthrough materials and systems.”

“Dr. Alicia Jackson, Deputy Director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office (BTO), discusses the potential of synthetic biology and describes new tools that are speeding progress in the field.”

“Dr. Phillip Alvelda, Program Manager in DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office (BTO), discusses the potential of next-generation neural interfaces to improve quality of life for people and revolutionize how we engage with machines.”

This is only tangentially related to biology, but over time microsystems and biosystems will be crossing paths more and more. There are almost 50 unique microsystems projects at DARPA running alongside the BTO initiatives. One project made the news when DARPA managed to break a world record for fastest THz device. From the article:

“The TMIC is based on work done by DARPA’s HiFIVE, SWIFT and TFAST programs and is capable of speeds 150 billion cycles faster than the previous record set in 2012 of 850 gigahertz. It has power gains that are several orders of magnitude greater than previous circuits with a gain of nine decibels at 1.0 terahertz (THz) and 10 decibels at 1.03 THz. In comparison, a smartphone can only manage 2 GHz.”