Personalized Protective Biosystems: DARPA Program Developing Innovative Threat Barriers

The Personalized Protective Biosystem (PPB) program aims is focused on reducing the need for service members to don bulky and restrictive protective equipment, while increasing their level of protection against chemical and biological threats.

Sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Biological Technologies Office, the program seeks to both develop reactive materials that prevent threat agent access to the body and advance configurable barrier countermeasures that neutralizes threat agents at vulnerable points of entry (i.e., skin, airway, ocular).

Personalized Protective Biosystem (PPB) program will develop an integrated system that simultaneously reduces protective equipment needs while increasing protection for the individual against existing and future chemical and biological (CB) threats. PPB will consist of lightweight materials that protect the warfighter from exposure to any CB threat while simultaneously providing a second layer of protection, at the tissue barrier, with bio-molecular, commensal organisms, or other technologies that protect the skin, eyes, and airway from CB threats.

PPB aims to improve mission execution by solving current protective equipment limitations including threat-specific vulnerabilities, thermal/logistical burdens, exposure risks during equipment removal/decontamination, and on-demand availability during unexpected threat situations.

Proposals for the PPB program should include approaches to achieve the following:

  • Material solutions should be lightweight, breathable, and both weather and abrasion resistant.
  • Deployability and repeated use for up to 30 days in austere and low-infrastructure environments should be considered.
  • Near instantaneous protection will be required.
  • A barrier countermeasure that when inhaled or applied to the eyes or skin must neutralize diverse chemical and biological agents before they can impact the individual.
  • Barrier countermeasure solutions should be a ‘plug and play’ format; such that the platform will accommodate reconfiguration against different agents.
  • Increasing the “catalog” of threats protected against by barrier countermeasures should not compromise breadth of chemical biological threat protection.
  • Living organism-based barrier countermeasure approaches should include multiple safeguards such as “toggle switches” for activation and deactivation in the body.

Specifically excluded from this effort is research that involves:

  • Re-purposing or elaboration of textiles or material composites that burden the operator with thermal, mechanical, or operational logistics.
  • Approaches that are individualized and precision medicine based (i.e., autologous).
  • Platforms incapable of reconfiguration.
  • Platforms without ‘Off’ switches for either organism gene expression control or organism population management.
  • Formulation and delivery solutions incompatible with hand-held delivery and storage considerations associated with austere, low-infrastructure environments.
  • Sole use of animal model systems or model system assays that are not generally accepted as representative of the respective indication.

A Proposer’s Day was held on 4 Dec 2019 for potential performers. Attendance at the event is not a prerequisite to submit a response to the DARPA Personalized Protective Biosystem Broad Agency Announcement (BAA). The full proposal deadline for this BAA is 20 February 2020.

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