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DARPA Fold F(x) Program to Advance Synthetic Biomedical Polymers

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is soliciting proposals for advancing “Folded Non-Natural Polymers with Biological Function” under a new Broad Agency Announcement for the Fold F(x) program.

While the biopharmaceutical industry has realized many outstanding protein and oligonucleotide reagents and medicines by screening large biopolymer libraries for desired function, significant technical gaps remain to rapidly address the full suite of existing and anticipated national security threats in DoD medicine (e.g., diagnostics and remediation strategies for chemical/biological warfare agents and infectious disease threats).

The objective of Fold F(x) is to develop processes enabling the rapid synthesis, screening, sequencing and scale-up of folded, non-natural, sequence-defined polymers with expanded functionality. The program will specifically address the development of non-natural affinity reagents that can bind and respond to a selected target, as well as catalytic systems that can either synthesize or degrade a desired target.

While non-natural folding polymers (e.g., foldamers) are known, broad utilization of these systems is currently limited because there is no available approach for rapidly developing and screening large non-natural polymer libraries. Fold F(x) will address this technical gap to create new molecular entities that will become future critical reagents in sensor and diagnostic applications, novel medicine leads against viral and bacterial threats, and new polymeric materials for future material science applications.

DARPA anticipates that successful efforts will include (1) novel synthetic approaches that yield large libraries (>109 members) of non-natural sequence-defined polymers; (2) flexible screening strategies that enable the selection of high affinity/specificity binders and high activity/selectivity catalysts from the non-natural libraries; (3) demonstration that the screening approach can rapidly (<4 days) yield affinity reagents or catalysts against targets of interest to the DoD; and (4) demonstration of scalability and transferability to the DoD scientific community.

DARPA seeks proposals that significantly advance the area of non-natural polymer synthesis, screening and sequencing for DoD-relevant threats. Proposals that simply provide evolutionary improvements in state-of-the-art technology will not be considered.

A Proposers’ Day Webinar for the Fold F(x) Program will be held on January 28, 2014. Further details are available under Solicitation Number: DARPA-BAA-14-13. White papers are due by February 6, 2014.


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