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DARPA's Biology Division

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency plans to consolidate its six biology-focused divisions into one new one, called the Biological Technologies Office, or BTO, ScienceInsider reports.

The agency has been engaged in biological research since 1997, when it launched a biohazard program, and it has recently started the Living Foundries program and has joined other agencies in working on neurological therapeutics and ways to repair brain damage in military service members.

Now, BTO's Deputy Director, Alicia Jackson, says those and other projects have reached "a critical mass," and the new office has plucked 23 projects from other areas of DARPA.

Although DARPA's biology research will be centralized, it will continue to have "far-flung" interests, and this week laid out three broad focus areas, including tools to support service members, synthetic biology programs like the Living Foundries, and research into complex biological systems, including disease outbreaks and population dynamics.

The creation of the BTO also is intended to get biotech researchers who have not looked to DARPA in the past to consider working with the agency, and as a way of reaching out to young investigators and startups that "may have little idea of how to interact with DARPA or that DARPA exists at all," Jackson told ScienceInsider.