DARPA Seeks Pathogen Detectors That Use CRISPR to Run 1,000 Tests at Once

The U.S. Department of Defense has put out a call to researchers to develop devices that detect pathogenic threats by performing up to 1,000 diagnostic tests in fewer than 15 minutes.

The devices ideally would determine the presence of a pathogen, and useful details about it, such as whether it’s a drug resistant variety, the severity of the infection, and any co-infections.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, which makes investments in breakthrough technologies on the military’s behalf, will oversee the initiative. 

Scientists have endeavored to make this sort of diagnose-anything, “Star Trek”-inspired device previously, without a lot of success. But DARPA is betting that new technology that leverages gene-editing techniques can achieve this goal.

If the project budget is approved by the White House, DARPA will be able to award more than US $60 million to proposers. An information session will be held in Atlanta on 11 December. DARPA program manager Renee Wegrzyn spoke with IEEE Spectrum about her vision for the these powerful devices. 

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