DARPA creates new division for biological technologies

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced the creation of a new division on Tuesday, the Biological Technologies Office, to explore the intersection of biology and the physical sciences.

The goals of the BTO are to harness the power of biological systems using the tools of engineering and related disciplines and to design next-generation technologies inspired by the life sciences. The office will explore the mechanisms of natural processes and determine how they can be applied to the mission of national defense.

"The Biological Technologies Office will advance and expand on a number of earlier DARPA programs that made preliminary inroads into the bio-technological frontier," Geoff Ling, the first director of the BTO, said. "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.'"

Initially, the BTO portfolio will include programs transferred from the Defense Sciences Office and the Microsystems Technology Office. Future programs will be created from ideas brought to the agency by the research community and program managers.

"Before BTO, DARPA had a handful of biologists, neuroscientists, engineers, and the like, interested in synthesizing their work but distributed across different offices," Ling said. "Now we're under one roof, so to speak, and looking to attract a new community of scholars, who will bring a host of new ideas at the intersection of traditional and emerging disciplines."

The BTO's research focus areas include restoring and maintaining warfighter abilities, harnessing biological systems and applying biological complexity at scale.