The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) is interested in developing biomarkers to rapidly assess an individual’s potential involvement in chemical or biological weapons (CBW) related activities.
The Bio-Intelligence Chips Program (BIC) intends to develop new analytical approaches to assessment based on cross-correlating multiple biomarkers found in physiological fluids to assay human exposure to agents and activities indicative of CBW production and handling. BIC performers will identify signatures associated with specific threat hypotheses that comprise sets of biomarkers corresponding to exposures consonant with particular CBW involvement scenarios.
The human adaptive immune system is known to carry a long-term memory of the body‘s exposure to environmental irritants, chemical toxins, and biological antigens, i.e., molecules associated with pathogenic organisms and viruses. Human immune memory resides in circulating antibodies as well as in T and B memory cells (lymphocytes), and in plasma and T- helper cells that secrete antibodies directed against specific antigens. Immune memory can be extremely long-lived. Certain forms of persistent responses have already been well established through biomedical research, while other forms presently remain less well characterized. To test a threat hypothesis, the long-term immune memory may be assayed for the presence of biomarkers that resulted from agent and environmental exposures occasioned through CBW production or handling activities.
The BIC program targets design and development of bioassays that can rapidly identify biomarkers from a small amount of human sample (≤100 mL). It is not required that final results be demonstrated on a portable platform; however future scalability to a portable platform should be described. CBW threats of interest fall into three categories: virus, bacteria, and toxins derived from bacteria or chemicals.
BIC is interested in omni-omic expressions encompassing, but not limited to: genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics, epigenomics, microbiomics, immunomics, glycomics, and lipodomics.
The best known of these omics categories is genomics, which deals with bioinformatic data developed from the analysis of DNA sequences. The other categories categories include: (1) transcriptomics, the analysis of information derived from RNA transcription levels of expressed genes within a cell population; (2) proteomics, the analysis of expressed proteins and their associated modifications; (3) metabolomics, the analysis of levels of metabolites (small organic molecules, including regulatory peptides) associated with the maintenance of homeostasis; (4) epigenomics, the study of heritable changes that are not directly encoded in DNA sequences; (5) microbiomics, the analysis of the species, numbers, and locations of parasitic and commensal organisms, e.g., bacteria that live endosymbiotically with their hosts; (6) immunomics, the analysis of information pertaining to changes in the immune system, particularly those associated with adaptive immunity; (7) glycomics, the analysis of all glycan structures in an organism including the glycan’s interaction with lectins and other biomolecules; and (8) lipodomics, the analysis of pathways and networks of cellular lipids in biological systems, including the quantification of lipids, the analysis of their conjugates (e.g., glycans) and their interactions with proteins, metabolites and other lipids.
The expected duration of the BIC program in its entirety is five years. This solicitation, however, seeks responses to only Phase I of the program, which will be 24 months in duration.
During Phase I, performers will refine exposure hypotheses for chosen threats, identify and validate biomarkers, based on one or more omics; acquire and preprocess samples; and conduct experiments using large-scale and/or laboratory-on-a-chip (LoC) instrumentation. After performers confirm candidate biomarkers that produce reliable biosignatures, they will develop bioassays suitable for low-volume scaling such as those required for LoC implementation. Assuming success, performers will submit duplicate samples and associated metadata to the IARPA team for independent testing.
Further details are available under Solicitation Number: IARPA-BAA-13-04.