DARPA creates program to investigate how viruses evolve

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has recently created a new grant program called Prophecy that is geared towards investigations into how viruses might evolve in order to improve efforts by biopharmaceuticals to head off health threats.

In addition to public health threats, projects developed through Prophecy could undoubtedly help protect against biological threats from state-sponsored and terrorist sources, according to FastCompany.com.

It is DARPA’s belief that current antiviral and vaccine efforts, though often effective, are predominantly retrospective in nature - they target virus that are already endemic, virulent and posing a significant threat to humans and animals. Medical efforts, likewise, look back towards well-characterized reference viruses that may not even represent the strains that are problematic, FastCompany.com reports.

In spite of recent innovations, vaccines can often take months or years to go from the drawing board to fighting the newly emerging diseases they were meant to.

The Prophecy program was designed to reverse the current paradigm and result in increasingly accurate predictions about how a virus might mutate as it moves through a given population. If it works, it has a chance to change the biopharmaceutical industry from a reactive mode to a proactive one, where potential outbreaks can be predicted and prepared for in advance, FastCompany.com reports.

This resulting is expected to lead to a more cost-effective allocation of resources, a faster response time and a lesser duration when outbreaks occur.