Charles River Analytics announced Thursday that the company has secured a potential five-year $16 million contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to lead research efforts focused on developing a biosystem solution to protect warfighters from biological and chemical threats.
The contract will allow Charles River Analytics to lead a team of partners in collaboration on DARPA’s Personalized Protective Biosystem (PPB) program to develop technology that will reduce the need for cumbersome protective equipment and neutralize threats at vulnerable internal tissue barriers while bolstering individual protection against biological attacks.
Charles River Analytics President, Karen Harper, noted that this milestone award is the company’s first with DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office.
The company's work with the PPB program will explore the use of new transgenic commensal organisms, such as hookworms and schistosomes, to secrete neurotoxins which will target and help neutralize chemical and biological threats.
Dr. Bethany Bracken, principal scientist at Charles River Analytics and contract project lead, said these organisms “have sophisticated secretory systems that can be manipulated to provide immunotherapies to protect our women and men on the battlefield.”
“Our goal is to insert a genetic sequence that provides the managed protection that the human body needs to counter these biological threats,” Dr. Bracken continued.
The team of subtractors on this project will include Baylor College of Medicine, George Washington University, James Cook University, Leiden University Medical Center, University of California, Irvine and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
“Our team spans four countries and 14 time zones to include the world’s foremost experts on hookworms and schistosomes,” said Vice President and Principal Scientist at Charles River Analytics and Program Manager for the PPB effort, Rich Wronski.
Wronski expressed his enthusiasm about the collaboration, noting that the project’s findings will bring innovative protective measures to warfighters and the larger medical community.