The U.S. Department of Defense's Defense Advanced Research Agency (DARPA) awarded researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) $7.9 million on Wednesday to research and develop an artificial immune system.
The two research teams are located at both TSRI campuses in Jupiter, Fla., and La Jolla, Calif.
The Jupiter team, led by Professor Tom Kodadek and Assistant Professor Brian Paegel, is building collections of various molecules that will materialize compounds meant to detect and neutralize chemical or biological threats. Each molecule in these collections is tagged with a DNA sequence that identifies its structure.
“We hope to create chemical libraries and screening platforms that are truly revolutionary in their capabilities,” Kodadek said.
The grant from DARPA will allow Paegel's lab to expand its program of drug discovery technology research and development.
The La Jolla team is led by Professor Floyd Romesberg. It seeks to develop single strands of DNA or RNA molecules that are modified to be stable and have increased functionality, known as oligonucleotides.
The team uses a DNA polymerase that recognizes nucleotides with modified sugars and a base pair not found in nature. By combining the two innovations, Romesberg and his team are attempting to create evolved, stable biopolymers that could bind or catalyze any substance.