Military turns to biology for defense tech

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

DARPA’s new biotech office will solve big problems by looking deeply into the smallest of places: The mysterious human body!

In the USA government, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is charged with the task of creating high-tech tools and weapons for the military. Now, the defense agency is researching biology with the new Biological Technologies Office, which is breathing “life” into their awesome technology.

Though most of DARPA’s inventions are focused on offense – like their pocket-sized drones – the new department focuses on combining advanced technology with biology for defense. A team of brilliant professionals has been recruited from all types of backgrounds, including engineering, neuroscience, biology, and computer science. Researchers are already exploring ways to aid the military by examining everything from the body’s smallest cells to its major organs.

What exactly are some of the projects they have cooking in their labs right now? Well, there are three main areas that the office will focus on. The first is maintaining a soldier’s fighting ability at peak levels by creating medical advances like vaccines before an outbreak, healing soldiers who have severely damaged their bodies, and ensuring the mental health of soldiers is sound. The second area of focus is growing scientific understanding of basic biology, so biological materials can be developed faster than ever and experiments on DNA (our cell’s blueprints) can proceed into unexplored areas. The third and final type of research will involve applying basic biology to enhancing soldiers – you know, creating supersoldiers kind of like in Captain America. Currently, they’re developing synthetic biology with their Living Foundries program, which involves designing, creating, and modifying natural living matter. Experts in this field can invent everything from renewable biofuels to revolutionary medicines.

Images courtesy of DARPA.