The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) 22.1 Solicitation is now open for U.S. small businesses to submit research proposals for a broad range of homeland security technology needs.
The DHS SBIR Program is a competitive contract awards program that encourages innovative and creative U.S. small businesses to participate in federal research and development projects, as well as private sector commercialization of SBIR-funded solutions.
The solicitation is published at SAM.gov and details the following topics and descriptions:
DHS221-005 – A Step Towards Agent Agnostic Detection of Biological Hazards
As of mid-2021, the DHS BioWatch system detects only small and specific DNA-signatures of six commonly known biological agents. Both the biological threat landscape and public health requirements have evolved significantly since the United States Government (USG) deployed BioWatch in 2003; accordingly, the USG must now similarly evolve its biological hazard perception capabilities and its population health monitoring posture.
In response to this topic DHS requests a proposed Machine Learning (ML)-based algorithm solution that instantaneously identifies a molecule based on its spectral properties. Given a set of spectral data such as mass, Raman, infrared, optical or other spectral data on a compound, the algorithm should be able to identify the molecular structure of that compound.
Proposed solutions can begin with the identification of individual compounds (as opposed to complex samples) and even use spectral data sets (including two dimensional) that are not yet generally gleaned from miniaturized spectrometers [e.g., nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) or electron spin resonance (ESR)]. The goal is to get the ML-logic in place such that given a set of peaks, stretches, chemical shifts, coupling constants, a machine can identify a compound with high sensitivity and specificity. In addition to chemical and biochemical compounds, DHS also encourage ideas relating to living biological agents.
DHS221-007 – Mass Fatality Tracking System (MFTS)
As seen recently at the Surfside Condominium Collapse, the recovery of human remains following an Mass Casualty Incident (MCI) provides responders with a multitude of difficult challenges. Without a formal system in place to collect consistent and quality recovery information in a repeatable process causes both a delay in relevant information collection and the likelihood to miss important location details.
The initiation of a human remains recovery record should begin with the collection of comprehensive documentation describing the point of discovery and location to preserve all key forensic data. Following an MCI, these critical pieces of information may be invaluable in identifying the individual, determining cause of death, and documenting evidence. Further, the addition of photos and site details will assist in all aspects of the tasks mentioned above. At present, First Responders, Urban Search & Rescue (US&R), Disaster Mortuary (DMORT) teams, Coroners, and Medical Examiners do not have a system to adequately support the immediate collection and processing of hundreds or thousands of human remains. Falling behind on this effort will inflict compounding levels of disorder as related implications grow. The reality of this situation is that local communities are not prepared to support the information collection and maintenance requirements for the recovery, processing, and storage of large quantities of fatalities.
This effort will propose the development or adaption of a low-cost and spatially aware electronic tag to catalogue all human remains location information within a centralized cloud-based data storage and display tool. The proposed effort will be required to remain viable in harsh outdoor environments and be self-powered for up to 30 days. It will establish a Recovery ID number to serve as the initial identifier to allow for a fully connected and relational information management solution. Data attributes would include victim/environmental details, photos, and general descriptive text. This solution will ensure that all investigators (radiologists, forensic pathologists, forensic dentists, etc.) have the point of recovery location details available to expedite the identification of remains and ensure that a comprehensive record of all remains recovered has been initiated and maintained.
DHS221-008 – Next Generation High-Performance, Low Cost, Semiconductor-Based Spectroscopic Personal Radiation Detectors (SPRDs)
This effort is aimed at developing an advanced semiconductor-based Spectroscopic Personal
Radiation Detector (SPRD) for both gamma and neutron detection.
High performance SPRDs fill a niche between Personal Radiation Detectors (PRDs) and Radioisotope Identification Devices (RIIDs). PRDs only sound an alarm when the radiation field exceeds a threshold level. While these devices are portable and relatively low cost, they do not have radioisotope identification capability. RIIDs, at the other end of the spectrum, have very good energy resolution for rapid identification of radioisotopes but are relatively more expensive due to the complexity of the systems which sometimes includes the need for a customized Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC).
Using a semiconductor-based approach offers many benefits over scintillators including, but not
limited to, higher energy resolution for better and faster isotope identification, high gamma capture
efficiency, lower false alarm rates, compactness, low size, weight and power (SWAP), and
robustness. An example of detector materials with performance of interest to CWMD include
thallium bromide (TlBr) for gamma detection. Other detector materials will be considered if they
have performance as good or better than TlBr and cost as low or lower than TlBr. For neutron
detection, an example of a semiconductor material of interest includes lithium indium di-selenide
(LiInSe2, or LIS).
DHS221-009 – Field Forward Detection Platform for High Consequence Toxins
High consequence toxins such as those included in the US Select Agent and Toxin list, have a propensity to be fatal to humans and most animals in low concentrations. These toxins are some of the deadliest chemicals known posing an ongoing public health threat. A remaining challenge for National Security programs is the availability of commercial, field-forward detection systems that are sensitive and reliable. Development of detection systems for these high consequence toxins would serve to reduce the public health risk to humans and animals, by providing an early warning, enabling countermeasures to be put into place before a more consequential event occurs.
The proposed technology must meet the following performance objectives:
- The ability to detect a minimum of six high consequence toxins in an environmental sample
- Be fieldable for rapid detection
- Produce results within 1 hour
- Detection of toxins directly from environmental samples
- Minimal to no upfront sample preparation
- Per test costs for the multiplexed cartridges (or another format diagnostic) less than ~$100 (threshold) and ~$20 (objective)
- A reader cost of less than ~$1000 (threshold) and ~$200 (objective)
- Quantitative or qualitative results are acceptable
- Detection limit 10 parts per million (ppm)
DHS221-010 – Person Worn Detector for Aerosolized Chemical Threats
The government is seeking innovative technologies to detect aerosolized chemical threats, such as Chemical Warfare Agents (CWAs), Toxic Industrial Chemicals/Materials (TICs/TIMs), and Pharmaceutical-Based Agents (PBAs) in the field.
This detection technology would be used to detect multiple chemicals threats within a sample in a complex environmental background. Preferable technology would be a small, wearable, multi-threat chemical detector that can be employed by DHS emergency response and law enforcement personnel. The envisioned usage of this product would warn the user about current exposure levels to potential threats before they reach concentrations immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH). This allows the user to adopt a more protective posture through awareness of the contaminated area and allow for proper donning and doxing of personal protective equipment.
Further uses may include incorporation on Unmanned Ground Vehicle or Aerial Systems (UGV, UAS) for remote detection and hazard plume mapping. Current CBRN response equipment does not provide a single continuous monitoring detection system to alert personnel to the presence of aerosolized airborne chemical threats and hazards. Lightweight chemical sampling and detection innovations which can be automated for such monitoring applications are desired.
The technology is intended to be used by personnel investigating incidents or potential threats in indoor and outdoor environments, to include large open areas and small confined spaces. The device should alert a user to the presence of aerosolized hazards in time to take protective measures for the duration of a regular duty shift without requiring frequent user interaction with the device.
The desired technology capabilities are listed below:
- The ability to detect multiple chemical threats in solid or liquid aerosol form. Approaches that can address more than one threat class (pharmaceutical, nerve, blister, TIC/TIM) will be prioritized.
- Detect anomalous chemical hazards distinct from common background aerosols as a threshold capability, with classification of threats as an objective capability
- Ability to add new chemicals of interest to the library
- The ability to operate in various operational environments such as at temperature and humidity extremes (50 °C to -10 °C temperatures; 5% to 95% relative humidity).
- Operate with multiple alarm settings (audible, visual, and vibratory)
- Detect threats at IDLH concentration levels as determined by NIOSH or OSHA
- Detection speed: objective <30 seconds threshold <1 minute
- Low-Size Weight and Power (SWaP), wearable form factor that does not pose a strain on operators
- The system should have a small and unobtrusive form factor
- Must have a battery life of at least 4 hours, but an 8-hour minimum battery life is preferable
DHS221-011 – From Port-Side to Pen-Side: Low-Cost Detection/Diagnostics for High-Consequence Transboundary or Nationally Reportable Animal Diseases, Particularly Those with Zoonotic Propensity
The economic value of the United States (U.S.) poultry industry is approximately $50 billion. Avian Influenza, Virulent New Castle Disease, and Marek’s Disease are caused by viral pathogens that are highly contagious and pose the risk of significant economic impact to U.S. security. Likewise, the economic value of the pork and beef industries are approximately $39 billion and $77 billion, respectively. Nipah virus encephalitis, Classical and African swine fevers, Lumpy skin disease, and Bovine spongiform encephalopathy are just a few examples of infectious diseases that threaten pork and beef industry food security. As the world euphemistically shrinks, the risk of pathogens arriving in the U.S. is an ever-growing concern. Despite numerous efforts, significant gaps remain regarding detection/identification or medical countermeasures development to combat the etiological agents of these diseases. Development of diagnostics for these pathogens would serve to mitigate the risk of serious disease outbreaks by providing early warning, so that countermeasures may be put into place before the respective industry is severely damaged or irrecoverably affected.
Zoonotic pathogens are microorganisms that are the main drivers for emerging (or re-emerging) infectious diseases in humans. Numerous wild and domestic animals serve as amplifying hosts for various viruses. Transmission to humans occurs through various mechanisms such as direct contact with animal fluids and secretions. The 2017 U.S. One Health Zoonotic Disease Prioritization workshop identified eight zoonotic diseases of concern including: zoonotic influenza, Salmonellosis, West Nile virus, Plague, emerging coronaviruses, Rabies, Lyme disease, and Brucellosis. Our lack of ability to detect certain high zoonotic propensity pathogens in a field forward environment represents a significant gap in homeland security. Reliable diagnostics for these pathogens would greatly reduce risk to the U.S. population by providing early detection and therefore additional time to employ countermeasures, both medical and physical, resulting in a dramatically reduced impact on society and human health.
Worldwide, the high consequence transboundary animal pathogens of concern include those pathogens listed in the World Organisation for Animal Health – OIE lists A and/or B. At the U.S national level, reportable animal pathogens of concern include those listed in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Animal Health Reporting System (NAHRS) and/or CDC One Health Zoonotic Disease Prioritization (OHZDP) Process and its workshops. Of particular interest are those animal pathogens with high zoonotic potential, for one or more species considered critical domestic sources of protein (e.g., poultry, swine, cattle, etc.).
The proposed technology must meet the following performance objectives:
- The ability to detect at least two transboundary or nationally reportable animal pathogens, including those with zoonotic potential in a sample specimen (blood, secretions, excretions, tissue, food/feed products, etc.)
- Be field deployable for rapid diagnosis
- Produce results within 1 hour
- Detect directly from samples currently used in animal health, food safety, or environmental surveillance diagnostics
- Minimal to zero upfront sample preparation
- Per test costs for the multiplexed cartridges less than ~$50 and a reader/reporter cost less than $1,000
- Quantitative or qualitative results are acceptable (e.g., copy/colony number vs. yes/no pathogen detected)
- Detection limit less than one log 10 less sensitive than the ‘gold standard,’ resulting in prediction conditions of correlating with at least 95% sensitivity and 95% specificity
- Electronic reporting of results in a secure manner
The benefits of early detection and identification could include reducing manpower requirements and costs; improving human health and animal safety; and mitigating the overall risk to the homeland posed by pathogens and other materials of food, agriculture, and veterinary defense (FAVD) concern.
This same strategy applies to pathogens that are suspected of having the capacity to initiate zoonotic events. Affordable diagnostics with a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) waiver would place a powerful tool in the hands of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspectors, USDA inspectors, and foreign animal disease diagnosticians surveying or intercepting food items that may be contaminated with these highly contagious animal pathogens. These diagnostics would be valuable to farmers/ranchers for animal feed sampling and surveillance and the potential identification of outbreaks in an early stage so that countermeasures could rapidly be put in place. First responders and medical institutions would also benefit from access to these tools.
During the solicitation period, DHS will accept proposals for topics until 1:00 p.m. ET on January 19, 2022. Interested small businesses must submit proposals through the online proposal submission system at https://sbir.dhs.gov.