The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has granted the University $14.6 million over five years to develop a method of identifying biological and chemical threats. The University team, led by Columbian College chemistry professor Akos Vertes, is working with Protea, SRI International and GE Global Research. Vertes and his GW colleagues were selected for the grant in part due to their work on Laser Ablation Electrospray Ionization (LAESI), which allows researchers to quickly identify the chemical composition of a biological sample.
The current DARPA project, called the New Tools for Comparative Systems Biology of Threat Agent Action Mechanism, is seeking to reduce the time it takes to identify the root of a chemical or biological threat to thirty days. Current processes can take years or even decades to identify such threats. The researchers are using the scientific disciplines of “transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics and bioinformatics” to meet the 30-day target.
“This ground-breaking award for GW is by far the largest DARPA award received by the University. DARPA funds high-risk, high-payoff research and is credited with such revolutionary projects as launching the internet. Receiving this award shows that this important government agency views GW as one of the nation’s premier research institutions,” said Dr. Leo Chalupa, GW’s Vice President for Research.
If the GW team is successful, it will both greatly strengthen national security as well as have possible applications in the pharmaceutical field. The success will also have implications for the future of DARPA’s relationship with the University and Chalupa has confidence that this program will have a positive effect.
“I believe this is one of many such awards to come in the future,” Chalupa said.