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By GCN Staff

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DARPA office to grow defense technologies with biology

Biology is taking its place among future defense technologies with a new DARPA office called the Biological Technology Office. It will apply the tools of engineering and related disciplines to biological systems to design next-generation technologies.

BTO will explore the intersection of biology with the other physical sciences to develop technology for U.S. national security, according to a DARPA statement. Its programs will operate across a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. These include from individual cells to humans and other organisms and the communities in which they operate, and “from the time it takes for a nerve to fire to the time it may take a new virus to spread around the world one sneeze at a time,” the agency said.

The office will continue the work of the agency’s Defense Sciences Office and Microsystem Technology Office in fields such as neuroscience, sensor design, microsystems and computer science.

“The Biological Technologies Office will advance and expand on a number of earlier DARPA programs that made preliminary inroads into the bio-technological frontier,” said Geoff Ling, the first director of BTO. “We’ve been developing the technological building blocks, we’ve been analyzing our results, and now we’re saying publicly to the research and development community, ‘We are ready to start turning the resulting knowledge into practical tools and capabilities.”

The BTO will concentrate on three research goals:

Restore and maintain warfighter abilities. BTO seeks new discoveries that help maintain peak warfighter abilities and heal injured service members through autonomous diagnostics and new therapies as well as advanced prosthetics and neural interfaces.

Harness biological systems. BTO seeks to uncover and apply rules governing biological systems to engineering new systems and products with novel materials and functionality.

Apply biological complexity at scale. BTO will also investigate the complexity and living-system dynamics of biological systems with the goal of developing applications to improve health, understand disease migration and secure food sources. 

Posted by Mike Cipriano on Apr 03, 2014 at 11:12 AM


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