by Matt Rosenberg February 28th, 2013
According to an announcement this week by the U.S. Department of Defense the University of Washington has won a $9.6 million modification to a “cooperative agreement” with a high-tech DoD special projects unit to advance its work on a system to let soldiers in the field self-collect biomarker-bearing substances such as semen, urine, saliva and hair, and swipe them onto cards sent to labs where they will be used to help diagnose possible health problems which can then be treated on the fly if needed with other advanced tools in development. Meanwhile, other U.S. military contracts sent the way of Washington state in this month alone are worth up to another $293 million. They are for unmanned drone support, a tactical equipment facility, food and radiology systems.
The newly-announced award to UW is part of the Autonomous Diagnostics to Enable Prevention and Therapeutics Program (ADEPT) of the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency or DARPA. UW’s office of Sponsored Programs last year won an initial ADEPT grant from DARPA of $3.1 million, part of a larger nearly-$30 million ADEPT pool dispensed then by DARPA to 19 different vendors.
DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office describes ADEPT as seeking to “provide Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines actionable information about their health, on demand, by developing…diagnostics that can be carried on-person and self-administered, coupled with formats suitable for preservation of self-collected biospecimens for later expanded testing…an additional thrust…includes capabilities to preserve, ship, archive and recover biomarkers from a self-collected specimen.”
Writing about ADEPT in late 2011, Wired’s Katie Drummond noted, “A soldier would collect his or her own biospecimen, which sugests that semen, urine, hair or spit would be prime contenders for the project. Then he or she would rub it onto a card” for safe transfer to another site to be evaluated. Drummond further explains:
“…the cards could offer valuable insight into the health of soldiers. Saliva tests can diagnose hormonal imbalances and thyroid problems, for example, and a splash of semen can show elevated white blood cell levels that signal infection. Not to mention that researchers are rapidly making inroads into using simple biospecimen tests for a multitude of other diagnoses, from cancer to brain injury.”
Just more than half the work on the newly-announced $9.6 million ADEPT add-on for UW is to be done in Seattle, 17.6 percent in Bothell and 32.3 percent in Niskayuna, New York. It is to be completed by August of 2014.
The new DoD award to UW is for a distinctive project but it has hardly been the only military contract this month for a Washington state vendor.