Scientists at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University have received a 2-year, $5.3 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to protect warfighters in the event of exposure to infectious diseases during deployment.
Dr. Stephen Albert Johnston and his colleagues at the Biodesign Institute have taken on a daunting test of skill: to develop a potential therapeutic that can protect soldiers against an unknown pathogenand do it in a week.
Any commercially available therapeutic typically requires about a decade or more to go from the benchtop to the marketplace. "Half of this period involves all the research and development of the therapeutic, the chemistry to make it, and so on," said Johnston, director of the Biodesign Institute's Center for Innovations in Medicine. "The other half is all the clinical trials testing and FDA approval." The group's goal will focus on reducing the front end of this processthe research and development phaseto just 7 days.
The DARPA challenge was extended to the research community as part of its Accelerated Critical Therapeutics program, a long-standing initiative in response to emerging and novel biological threats.
Johnston's research team has developed new technologies that could accomplish this seemingly impossible feat, drastically reducing the time necessary to produce a general agent against a disease-causing invader. In addition to benefiting the warfighter, his team's approach, involving the use of synthetic antibodies or synbodies, may ultimately find its way into a broad range of applications of benefit to the general public, including medical diagnostics and vaccine development and validation.
Like their human immune system counterparts, synbodies can chemically sniff out invasive microbes with very high specificity, binding with and neutralizing them. Synbodies against the selected pathogen can then be rapidly produced and stockpiled usi
|Contact: Joe Caspermeyer|
Arizona State University