DARPA has awarded three U.S. companies with contracts to develop Personalized Protective Biosystem (PPB) technologies.
These contracts are aimed at reducing the need for burdensome personal protective equipment (PPE) while increasing individual protection against chemical and biological (CB) threats.
FLIR Systems is a world leader in thermal imaging cameras, components and imaging sensors; Leidos is an American defense, aviation, IT, and biomedical research company; and Charles River Analytics offers leading-edge AI, robotics, and human-machine interface R&D.
All three companies will develop lightweight materials and adaptable, tissue-protective countermeasures to provide on-demand, broad spectrum, and rapid long-term protection.
They also plan to leverage molecular technologies and commensal organisms to unburden protective equipment demands from the user.
DARPA deems this as important and necessary as CB threats have become increasingly universal and diverse, presenting significant risks to war fighters in battle, and stability operators during pandemic outbreaks.
Adding to this, state-of-the-art personal protective equipment (PPE) can be bulky, heavy, and cumbersome, often severely limiting user mobility and performance. And this is where DARPA hopes PPB will shine:
“PPB aims to address PPE limitations, including threat-specific vulnerabilities, thermal/logistical burdens, and potential exposure risks,” noted Eric Van Gieson, PPB program manager.
“The capability to provide unburdened CB protection will be invaluable in maximizing time on target, providing operational flexibility, extending mission duration, and enabling operations in austere environments, regardless of the threat.”
According to the DARPA press release, the five-year program is divided into two technical areas (TAs):
TA1 technologies aim to prevent external contact between the threat and the body, providing 100% survival against more than 10 CB agents with smart, lightweight materials.
TA2 technologies will neutralize threats at vulnerable internal tissue barriers (i.e. skin, airway, ocular) using a configurable countermeasure.
According to Van Gieson, successful PPB technologies have the potential to revolutionize how the military and public health communities perform in unpredictable threat environments.
They could also offer prophylactic and therapeutic solutions to known and emerging infectious diseases, adds Van Gieson.
Image and content: DARPA