Innovation

DARPA does biotech

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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency opened a new biotechnology office that seeks to meld engineering, computer science and biological processes to produce what officials say will enable revolutionary advances in defense applications.

DARPA unveiled the Biological Technologies Office on April 1 and said its mission is to explore the increasingly dynamic intersection of technology and the physical sciences.

"Technology, like biology, constantly evolves," officials said in a statement, adding that the agency's mission is to stay ahead of the technological curve with early investment in "areas that cut across fields of research and enable revolutionary new capabilities for U.S. national security."

The office expands on the work performed by DARPA's offices of Defense Sciences and Microsystems Technology. Recent progress in such diverse disciplines as neuroscience, sensor design, microsystems, computer science and other long-standing areas of DARPA development has begun to converge, revealing newly emergent potential ready to be realized, officials said.

Although most of the programs under the new office have a medical flavor -- mind-controlled prosthetics and neural interfaces, for example -- some have a broader scope. For instance, the Living Foundries program is focused in part on creating a biologically based manufacturing platform to provide rapid, scalable access to new materials with novel properties that can enable a new generation of mechanical, electrical and optical products.

The office's initial portfolio includes programs transferred from the Defense Sciences and Microsystems Technology offices and will also include new opportunities, beginning with DARPA's recently announced Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces program, which expands on the work of the Revolutionizing Prosthetics and the Reliable Neural-Interface Technology programs.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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