Inventors Dash to Unpack WMD Threats at Cellular Level

Police officers put on hazardous-materials suits to train for biological or chemical attacks in 2005. Scientists are racing to develop new procedures capable of quickly determining how chemicals and microbes attack humans at the cellular level.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
Add to Briefcase
Diane Barnes
June 17, 2014, 9:04 a.m.

Sci­ent­ists are wa­ging an un­der-the-mi­cro­scope battle to de­term­ine how weapon­ized chem­ic­al and bio­lo­gic­al agents be­have in­side cells to kill their vic­tims.

Teams of spe­cial­ists are roughly six months in­to a five-year dash for tech­no­lo­gies cap­able of de­term­in­ing how a bio­lo­gic­al or chem­ic­al in­vader acts on a mo­lecu­lar level to as­sault the hu­man body, the pro­ject’s top De­fense De­part­ment over­seer told Glob­al Se­cur­ity News­wire. The ini­ti­at­ive — dubbed “Rap­id Threat As­sess­ment” — would ideally yield tech­niques cap­able of provid­ing a full readout of an un­con­ven­tion­al weapon ma­ter­i­al with­in 30 days, al­low­ing for fast pre­par­a­tion of new med­ic­al treat­ments.

“It’s a little early to make any pre­dic­tions of fu­ture suc­cess,” said Barry Pal­lotta, who is head­ing the pro­ject for the De­fense Ad­vanced Re­search Pro­jects Agency.

Pro­ject par­ti­cipants are act­ing on their own timelines to pur­sue vari­ous vis­ions for ana­lyt­ic­al sys­tems cap­able of de­term­in­ing ex­actly when, where and how for­eign in­vaders acts in­side of hu­man cells, Pal­lotta wrote in an e-mailed re­sponse to ques­tions.

He said the goal is to de­vel­op meth­ods of re­veal­ing the mo­lecu­lar blow-by-blow of an un­con­ven­tion­al weapon’s course of at­tack “with 95 per­cent ac­cur­acy.”

“Each pro­ject team … is cur­rently fo­cused on meet­ing the mile­stones that come due at the end of the base peri­od about a year from now,” Pal­lotta wrote.

His agency said in­vent­ors would then face a test where they will have 30 days “to de­tect, identi­fy, re­con­struct, and con­firm the mech­an­ism of a demon­stra­tion com­pound.”

Pro­pos­als deemed to show enough prom­ise could see their fund­ing re­newed for up to three ad­di­tion­al 14-month cycles, ac­cord­ing to a DARPA broad agency an­nounce­ment from last year.

What We're Following See More »
House Approves Spending Bill
18 hours ago

The House has completed it's business for 2016 by passing a spending bill which will keep the government funded through April 28. The final vote tally was 326-96. The bill's standing in the Senate is a bit tenuous at the moment, as a trio of Democratic Senators have pledged to block the bill unless coal miners get a permanent extension on retirement and health benefits. The government runs out of money on Friday night.

Senate Approves Defense Bill
19 hours ago

The Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act today, sending the $618 billion measure to President Obama. The president vetoed the defense authorization bill a year ago, but both houses could override his disapproval this time around.

Trump Chooses Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr CEO as Labor Sec
21 hours ago
Trump Cabinet Full of TPP Supporters
21 hours ago

"President-elect Donald Trump railed against the Trans-Pacific Partnership on his way to winning the White House and has vowed immediately to withdraw the U.S. from the 12-nation accord. Several of his cabinet picks and other early nominees to top posts, however, have endorsed or spoken favorably about the trade pact, including Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, announced Wednesday as Mr. Trump’s pick for ambassador to China, and retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, Mr. Trump’s pick to head the Department of Defense."

Trump to Nominate Linda McMahon to Head SBA
1 days ago

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.