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DARPA Awards $36.7M to Six Organizations for Gene Editing-Based Dx, Biosurveillance Tech

NEW YORK – The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded a contract worth up to $36.7 million over four years to MRIGlobal and a team of five other organizations under the auspices of its Detect It with Gene Editing Technologies (DIGET) program.

Contract research organization MRIGlobal said on Thursday that it received an initial contract award for $12.7 million. The company will lead the overall team in the development of a disposable, CRISPR-based, point-of-care device for the detection of at least 10 pathogens, and a massively multiplexed device for the detection of at least 1,000 targets.

Mammoth Biosciences, Draper, IDbyDNA, University of California, San Francisco, and Toolbox Medical Innovations will work as subcontractors on the project, and will contribute their chemistries and technological platforms.

DARPA launched the DIGET program at the end of 2019 to create diagnostic and biosurveillance systems that can keep pace with disease outbreaks and support decision-making at the time and place of need, while taking advantage of advances in gene editing technologies.

Both the point-of-care diagnostic and the massively multiplexed device created under this contract must be simple to operate, low-cost, and rapidly reconfigurable, DARPA said. The disposable point-of-care device will also need to improve the speed and efficacy of triage and treatment, and enhance the standard of care for the military and public health domains in austere environments.

As for the multiplex device, the agency is looking for a diagnostic that can detect threats early, assess disease severity, and improve situational awareness. This platform will also have to provide actionable data for biosurveillance efforts, such as characterizing known and emergent pathogens to inform the deployment of countermeasures.

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