The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has unveiled a new program that aims to develop technology that would determine if unfamiliar bacteria contain harmful traits.
DARPA said WednesdayÂ it seeksÂ to build a portable tool that will work to screen unfamiliar bacteria to identify their pathogenicity, or capacity to cause disease, through theÂ Friend or Foe program.
“Our existing biosurveillance strategies don’t work on previously undiscovered bacteria or on bacteria that have been specifically designed to evade detection by current tests,” saidÂ Paul Sheehan, a DARPA program manager.
“We need new screening tools that can quickly characterize the threat to enable a rapid response,” Sheehan added.
The Friend or Foe device will aim to detect whether unknownÂ bacteria can surviveÂ and establish a nicheÂ in its host; causeÂ harmÂ to theÂ host; and protectÂ itselfÂ fromÂ antibodies orÂ antibiotics.
DARPA envisions the program as a four-year effort that will involve “performer” teams and an independent verification and validation team.
The IV&V team will work with the performer teams toÂ establish a standardized process for simulating different environments and mixtures of known bacteria.
The verification team will also assess the quality of performers’ technologies after tests
A proposers day is scheduled to take place at DARPA’s conference center in Arlington, Virginia, on Feb. 28.