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DARPA Biotechnology EZ BAA Cuts the Red Tape

DARPA Biological Technologies
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DARPA Biological Technologies Office (BTO)The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has simplified its Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) proposal process to better attract and fund new ideas in biotechnology.

This new Biotechnology EZ BAA, overseen by DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office (BTO), provides the opportunity for innovators to receive seed funding of up to $700,000 simply by submitting an initial two-page white paper describing their ideas.

“Some of the most exciting work in biotech is happening at the edges and intersections of disciplines, by people who in many cases have never worked with the government before and don’t know how to navigate traditional funding channels,” said Dr. Alicia Jackson, deputy director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office. “Since DARPA itself operates at the edges of science and technology, these are often precisely the people with whom we want to be in business. So we’ve created a process that they can relate to.”

Unlike traditional BAAs, which specify topics and minimum performance requirements, the EZ BAA is open to any idea with the potential to yield revolutionary new capabilities in the biotech. This eliminates the need for proposers to search or wait for specific opportunities relevant to their expertise.

BAAs also typically run 40 to 60 pages and requires highly structured responses from proposers. Under the simplified EZ BAA, DARPA managers will review the 2-page white papers within just a few weeks of submission, and either encourage or discourage submission of a full proposal of no more than 20 pages.

The full proposals will be limited to a cover sheet, optional submission letter, 200-word layman’s summary, goals and impact statement, statement of work, management plan, description of organizational capabilities, and a cost summary; proposers must also submit a separate cost proposal detailing planned expenditures. DARPA will evaluate proposals based on scientific and technical merit, cost realism, and relevance and potential contribution to the DARPA mission.

DARPA’s contract management team basically trimmed the standard BAA to remove everything but the bare essentials to get the funding process going, making the process less daunting to those unfamiliar with federal contracting requirements.

Proposers can choose from two funding mechanisms in their submissions: “other transactions” or fixed-price procurement contracts. Other transactions are particularly suited to the development of dual-use technologies (those with both defense and commercial applications) or when participants are largely from commercial industry.

Source: DARPA press release, adapted.

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