Research and Development

  • EbolaU.S. seeking innovative solutions for protecting healthcare workers on Ebola front lines

    The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA), saying the agency is looking for opportunities to co-create, co-design, co-invest, and otherwise collaborate in the development, testing, and scaling of practical and cost-effective innovations to help healthcare workers on the front lines provide better care and stop the spread of Ebola. USAID notes that this funding mechanism will not support research that does not provide a clear path to development and testing of prevention and intervention strategies. Awards are in the range of $100,000 to $1million.

  • EbolaNew tool can be used as a universal Ebola drug target

    University of Utah biochemists have reported a new drug discovery tool against the Ebola virus. According to a study published in this week’s online edition of Protein Science, they have produced a molecule, known as a peptide mimic, which displays a functionally critical region of the virus that is universally conserved in all known species of Ebola. This new tool can be used as a drug target in the discovery of anti-Ebola agents which are effective against all known strains and likely future strains. The same group of biochemists has previously developed highly potent and broadly acting D-peptide inhibitors of HIV entry, currently in preclinical studies, and is now adapting this approach to Ebola using the mimics developed in this study.

  • Synthetic biologyMore research needed to address synthetic biology security concerns

    Synthetic biology involves the design of new biological components, devices, or systems that do not exist in nature, or the redesign of existing natural biological systems. Synthetic biology aims to make biological systems work more efficiently or to design biological tools for specific applications — such as developing more effective antibiotics. A new paper examines security risks and policy questions related to the growing field of synthetic biology. While the author does not think the field is ripe for exploitation by terrorists, it does highlight significant gaps in our understanding of the nuts and bolts of lab work in synthetic biology that can contribute to security risks.

  • DHS R&DR&D at DHS is “inherently fragmented”: GAO

    The GAO says that DHS does not know how much it spends on R&D, making it difficult for the sprawling agency to oversee and coordinate those efforts. David Maurer, GAO’s director of Homeland Security and Justice, told a House hearing that R&D at DHS is “inherently fragmented.” The reason is that each of several components of the agency — the Science and Technology Directorate, the Coast Guard, and the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office — are given R&D responsibilities by law. At the same time, other DHS components conduct their own R&D efforts as long as those activities are coordinated through the S&T office, Maurer said.

  • Cybersecurity$5 million for new cybersecurity building at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

    Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) is a central component of the new “CyberSpark” initiative, a multi-component cyber eco-system. It is the only complex of its type in the world which is a government-academic-industry partnership and includes Fortune 500 companies and cyber-incubators, academic researchers and educational facilities, as well as national government and security agencies. A $5 million contribution will underwrite construction of the building that will house the Cyber Security Institute.

  • EbolaNIH launching human safety study of Ebola vaccine candidate

    The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will this week begin initial human testing of an investigational vaccine to prevent Ebola virus disease. The early-stage trial will begin initial human testing of a vaccine co-developed by NIAID and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and will evaluate the experimental vaccine’s safety and ability to generate an immune system response in healthy adults. The study is the first of several Phase 1 clinical trials that will examine the investigational NIAID/GSK Ebola vaccine and an experimental Ebola vaccine developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and licensed to NewLink Genetics Corp.

  • EbolaEbola outbreak could inspire African terrorist groups to weaponize the virus: Experts

    Recent discussions about Ebola have mainly focused on the disease as a public health hazard, but counterterrorism officials are concerned that the new outbreak could inspire terror groups, specifically those based in West Africa, to weaponize the virus. The fear of weaponized Ebola dates back decades to when the Soviet Union’s VECTOR program, aimed at researching biotechnology and virology, was thought to have researched the creation of Ebola for warfare. In 1992 a Japanese cult group called Aum Shinrikyo tried, but failed, to collect samples of the Ebola virus in Zaire.

  • Defense R&DDARPA seeks to speed new materials development process

    Military platforms — such as ships, aircraft, and ground vehicles — rely on advanced materials to make them lighter, stronger, and more resistant to stress, heat, and other harsh environmental conditions. Currently, the process for developing new materials to field in platforms frequently takes more than a decade. DARPA seeks to address this problem by developing a methodology and toolset to compress the applied material development process by at least 75 percent: from an average of ten years or longer to just two and a half years.

  • Defense R&DAs budget shrinks, DOD needs to rethink strategy to preserve U.S. technological edge

    The United States currently accounts for less than one-third of global research and development spending, and this fraction is projected to decline to 18 percent by 2050. Those statistics, together with the recognition that the United States no longer maintains superiority across all research fields, mean that DOD’s technological leadership now depends upon its ability to identify and leverage relevant research advances as they emerge from the global science and technology enterprise, says a new report from the National Research Council.

  • Designer toxinsConvergence of chemistry and biology raises concerns about designer toxins

    The convergence of chemistry and biology is providing major benefits to humankind, particularly in health care, alternative energy sources, and in environmental control – and when combined with other advances, particularly in nanotechnology, it is also being exploited in developing improved defensive countermeasures against chemical and biological warfare agents. This convergence, however, has also raised concerns that biotechnology could be applied to the production of new toxic chemicals, bioregulators, and toxins. A new report from OPCW says that the potential for scaling up biological processes for large scale production of chemicals of concern is still limited, but biomediated processes might still be effective for producing weaponizable quantities of toxins which are lethal to humans in microgram or lower dosage.

  • In the trenchesMilitary implications of advances in brain research

    Researchers funded by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency(DARPA) have developed a new way to visualize the complete brain in three-dimensional imaging. The breakthrough could advance the field of rapid brain imaging, allowing scientists to see in greater detail how parts of the brain interact on a cellular level and better understand those interactions throughout the brain. A former DARPA program manager recently told a policy group that “It turns out the expert marksman has a brain state, a state that they enter before they take the perfect shot. Can I teach a novice to create this brain state? The answer was yes.”

  • Science investmentResearch reconfirms that public investment in scientific research promotes growth

    New and independent research has reconfirmed and quantified some of the economic and societal benefits of public investment in scientific research. The report says that for every £1 spent by the U.K. government on R&D, private sector R&D output rises by 20p per year in perpetuity, by raising the level of the U.K. knowledge base.

  • R&DUniversity scientific research has enormous short-term value: study

    Using new data available to examine the short-term economic activity generated by science funding, researchers have for the first time been able to illuminate the breadth of the scientific workforce and the national impact of the research supply chain that is funded by federal grants. They found that university research is a key component of the U.S. economic ecosystem, returning the investment through enormous public value and impact on employment, business, and manufacturing nationwide.

  • CybersecurityNew state-of-the-art cybersecurity resource available to software developers

    Cybercrime is booming; it is an estimated $100 billion industry in the United States and shows no signs of slowing down. Attackers have an arsenal of weapons at their disposal, including social engineering — or phishing — penetrating weak security protocols and exploiting software vulnerabilities that can serve as an “open window” into an organization’s IT environment. Closing those windows requires effective and accessible tools to identify and root out software vulnerabilities. Supported by a $23.4 million grant from DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), the Software Assurance Marketplace, or SWAMP, provides a state-of-the-art facility that serves as an open resource for software developers, software assurance tool developers, and software researchers who wish to collaborate and improve software assurance activities in a safe, secure environment.

  • R&DDARPA makes agency-sponsored software, publications available to R&D community

    DARPA has invested in many programs that sponsor fundamental and applied research in areas of computer science, programs which have led to new advances in theory as well as practical software. The R&D community has asked about the availability of results, and now DARPA has responded by creating the DARPA Open Catalog, a place for organizing and sharing those results in the form of software, publications, data, and experimental details. The Web site aims to encourage communities interested in DARPA research to build off the agency’s work, starting with big data.