The agency wants researchers to invent a technology that can determine, in just 30 days, how a new chemical or biological attack works.
Biological agent entering a cell DARPA
The U.S. Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency has set a new challenge for scientists: Invent a method that can figure out, on a molecular level, how new chemical and biological weapons work—and that can do so within 30 days of a victim being exposed. DARPA is calling the five-year program Rapid Threat Assessment.
A process that could determine in 30 days the way a new biological or chemical attack interferes with normal cell function would be a huge improvement over current science. It took researchers years to figure out how anthrax, a known threat, infiltrates and kills white blood cells; if a terrorist group has deployed a new type of chemical weapon, we won't want to spend years learning how to stop it.
Rapid Threat Assessment will focus on determining on the mechanism by which a hostile agent enters a cell, with the idea being that if a disease can't enter a cell in the first place, the damage it can do is limited. DARPA hopes that understanding the interaction between a threat agent and a cell will allow scientists to quickly develop medicines that target an attack's weak point.
Rapid Threat Assessment won't directly protect against threats, but if it works, it w