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ASU receives 2-year, $5.3 million DARPA award to safeguard soldiers from infectious diseases

Scientists at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University have received a 2-year, $5.3 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to protect warfighters in the event of exposure to infectious diseases during deployment.

Dr. Stephen Albert Johnston and his colleagues at the Biodesign Institute have taken on a daunting test of skill: to develop a potential therapeutic that can protect soldiers against an unknown pathogen—and do it in a week.

Any commercially available therapeutic typically requires about a decade or more to go from the benchtop to the marketplace. "Half of this period involves all the research and development of the therapeutic, the chemistry to make it, and so on," said Johnston, director of the Biodesign Institute's Center for Innovations in Medicine. "The other half is all the clinical trials testing and FDA approval." The group's goal will focus on reducing the front end of this process—the research and development phase—to just 7 days.

The DARPA challenge was extended to the research community as part of its Accelerated Critical Therapeutics program, a long-standing initiative in response to emerging and novel biological threats.

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