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Nanosensors for Threat Agent and Health Diagnostics

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) last week published a new Broad Agency Announcement seeking technology concepts for In vivo Nanosensors for Diagnostics (IVN:Dx).

The objective of the IVN:Dx effort is to develop radically new classes of biocompatible nanosensors that provide continuous, noninvasive, and highly accurate measurement of a variety of conditions and substances within the living tissue of animals, plants, and insects using non-toxic materials with limited immunogenicity.

Such sensors would permit measurements over large concentration ranges of both small (e.g., glucose, lactate, and urea) and large molecules (e.g., proteins, oligonucleotides, infectious agents, and chemical/biological threat agents) in the organism and environment through optical, electronic, thermal or magnetic mechanisms.

The possibilities of such an in vivo sensing capability are exciting as it would remove the logistical burden of in vitro devices and provides continuous monitoring of physiology.  Further, such a platform is not limited to single analyte detection, instead providing multiplexed monitoring in real time.  The solicitation notes that “the first high-payoff application of in vivo nanosensor technology is in the early sensing and detection of biologic exposure, long before the warfighter is contagious or symptoms are present.”

Further details are available under solicitation DARPA-BAA-12-33, which has a response deadline of June 28, 2012. Multiple awards are possible and contract negotiations are estimated to begin October 1, 2012. A companion solicitation for concepts, In vivo Nanoplatforms for Therapeutics (IVN:Tx), is also expected to be released at that time.

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