George Washington University receives DARPA funding for biological threat detection research

George Washington University announced on Tuesday that one of its research teams will receive up to $14.6 million over five years from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The team will develop a way to rapidly identify the root of biological and chemical threats. Currently, the process can take years or decades to complete; the team will work attempt to find a way to complete the process within 30 days. The rapid identification of threats would bolster national security efforts.

"Clearly, this is a very large challenge, and it's easy to understand why it's important to overcome," Akos Vertes, George Washington University professor of chemistry in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, said. "Discovering the cause behind a biological or chemical threat can provide information that not only counteracts the threat but also provides important information for pharmaceutical companies developing drugs that may be unrelated to the threat."

The team will work with toxic agents to learn how they affect genes, proteins and cellular functions. It will use transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics and bioinformatics to meet the challenge. The team said it will use an "immense amount of data" to determine how a biological threat fimctopms.

Dr. Vertes and his team recently developed Laser Ablation Electrospray Ionization, which they will use to quickly learn the chemical composition of a sample.

Project collaborators include GE Global Research, Protea Biosciences, Inc., and SRI International.