DARPA works with six organizations on biological materials for military applications
ARLINGTON, Va., 1 Oct. 2015. U.S. military researchers are working with six organizations to find ways of developing biological materials easily for advanced sensing capabilities, chemicals, materials, and therapeutics as part of a program to develop a biology-engineering infrastructure for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and for the engineering biology community.
Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., announced their latest biotechnology contract on 23 Sept. 2015 to Zymergen Inc. in Emeryville, Calif.,for the Living Foundries: 1000 Molecules program.
Scientists from these organizations seek to create a revolutionary, biologically based technology platform to provide new materials, capabilities, and manufacturing paradigms for the U.S. military.
Contractors chosen so far for the DARPA Living Foundries: 1000 Molecules program are Zymergen Inc. in Emeryville, Calif.; Amyris Inc. in Emeryville, Calif.; University of Texas-Austin in Austin, Texas; Duke University in Durham, N.C.; 20n Labs Inc. in San Francisco; and University of Illinois in Urbana, Ill.
Contractors working on other phases of the DARPA Living Foundries program are Twist Bioscience Corp. in San Francisco; Regents of the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colo.; and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass.
The Living Foundries contractors are helping DARPA scientists as they seek to create a first-of-its-kind infrastructure composed of tools and processes that help with innovation across several applications, and to help push biotechnology forward. The infrastructure will include design algorithms, genetic integration methodologies, and flexible assay systems.
The organizations each are involved with creating one of several research centers, each of which will try to produce at last 350 unique molecules of relevance to DOD that will augment today's limited set of chemical building blocks.
Biologically produced molecules are more useful than traditional approaches, DARPA researchers say. The rapid design and prototyping infrastructure should bridge the gap from initial, laboratory-level, proof-of-concept experimentation to industrial pilot production.
Key technical areas of the program include computers to link component technologies; design tools to engineer novel biosynthetic pathways, gene cluster discovery, and chemical structure prediction; methods for automated construction of genetic designs; design evaluation tools to enable massively parallel testing, analysis, validation, and verification of engineered systems; and feedback tools with high-volume data generation.
Ultimately, rapid design and prototyping facilities should consist of computational and physical infrastructure supporting design, fabrication, validation and quality control, and analysis, the totality of which should be tightly coupled to algorithms for design and processing.
DARPA Living Foundries has three challenge areas: rapid, improved prototyping of known molecules; prototyping of known, but currently inaccessible, molecules; and prototyping of novel molecules.
For more information contact Zymergen online at http://zymergen.com; Amyris online at https://amyris.com; University of Texas-Austin at www.utexas.edu; Duke University at https://duke.edu/; 20n Labs at http://20n.com; University of Illinois at http://illinois.edu; or DARPA at www.darpa.mil.