HSARPA requests bio research solicitations

The Homeland Security Department today released its first request for solicitations to develop technologies that would detect biological and chemical attacks by continuously monitoring shopping malls, sports stadiums and other areas.

The Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA), which funds research and development in private industry, said it is looking for biological and chemical countermeasures that could quickly identify attacks and protect people if they are exposed to deadly material.

Agency officials also want to develop a handheld device for first responders to help them identify contaminated areas and determine whether they should wear protective gear.

"Our goal for this first solicitation is to develop and transition to the field the next generation of biological and chemical detectors," said Charles McQueary, undersecretary of DHS' Science and Technology Directorate. "These detectors will significantly advance the capabilities of our first responders and federal programs to counter terrorism."

DHS officials plan to hold a conference Sept. 29 in Washington, D.C., to tell vendors exactly what officials want. DHS has more than $800 million in its fiscal 2004 budget to pay for development of innovative technologies.

HSARPA seeks ideas for detectors that would continuously monitor outdoor urban and shipboard areas for bacteria, viruses or toxins. Officials also are looking for ideas for biological identification systems to monitor indoor buildings such as shopping malls and sports stadiums.

In addition, they are seeking ideas for developing a portable laboratory that can be transported to suspected contamination sites and analyze thousands of samples each day.

"Bringing these new biological and chemical countermeasures, sensors and systems to reality requires innovative thinking and partnerships among a wide variety of commercial businesses, laboratories and academic institutions," said HSARPA Director David Bolka.

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