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DoD PREPARE Program Aims to Boost the Body’s Defense Against Health Threats

DAPRA PREPARE Program - Gene modulation to protect against CBR threats
Credit: DARPA

Influenza pandemics, organophosphate poisoning, opioid overdose, and exposure to ionizing radiation are representative of the broad spectrum of biological, chemical, and radiological (CBR) threats that can significantly impact public health and national security. These seemingly disparate threats share a common challenge: despite decades of laboratory experimentation and significant research investment, broad-acting, longer-lived, and effective medical countermeasures (MCMs) remain elusive.

The Defense Department’s new PReemptive Expression of Protective Alleles and Response Elements (PREPARE) program aims to develop programmable gene modulators for humans that can provide medical countermeasures and prophylaxes to better protect against such CBR threats.

Managed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the PREPARE program aims to temporarily and reversibly tune gene expression to bolster the body’s defenses against—or directly neutralize—a given threat. It will focus on four key health challenges as proofs of concept:

  • Influenza Viral Infection
  • Opioid Overdose
  • Organophosphate Poisoning
  • Exposure to Gamma Radiation

Proposed research should investigate disruptive approaches for the identification of gene targets that, when modulated, confer protection or resistance against these threats; the development of novel tools to modulate the activity of target genes; and the generation of clinical formulations that enable delivery to the appropriate cells and tissues in vivo.

The integration of these approaches into a platform that can produce novel medical countermeasures MCMs should enable a specific, potent, safe, and transient approach for directly modulating the activity of target genes to limit the damaging and potentially fatal consequences of a broad range of threats to warfighters, first responders, and civilian populations.

Additional details are available on FedBizOps under Solicitation Number: HR001118S0037.

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