Tri-Service effort leverages synthetic biology expertise to address future warfighter needs

Dr. Chia Hung discusses current research in the biology lab at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Materials and Manufacturing directorate during a visit of members of the tri-service Applied Research for the Advancement of Science and Technology Priorities Program on Synthetic Biology for Military Environments . The program unites researchers from each of the service laboratories in an effort to create the organic capabilities and infrastructure within the DOD for synthetic biology for future defense technology.

Taking advantage of Department of Defense research laboratory expertise in chemistry, biology, computer science and material science and engineering, a collaborative, $45 million tri-service effort is changing the way the DOD exploits biological systems to meet the unique needs and challenges of defense environments.

The Applied Research for the Advancement of Science and Technology Priorities Program on Synthetic Biology for Military Environments, funded by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, unites subject matter experts from the Air Force, Army and Navy. The effort is aimed at creating organic capabilities and infrastructure for the use of synthetic biology in the DOD as a key enabler for future defense technology.

Synthetic biology, though well established in industry, is still a relatively new field of application for the DOD. This interdisciplinary field combines the understanding of how genes operate and  are organized in cells with engineering principles, to modify organisms for beneficial applications in areas such as performance augmentation, sensor development and materials synthesis, to name a few.

“There are consumer products on the market that depend on this technology. We’re trying to grow its use in the DOD,” said Dr. Claretta Sullivan, a research scientist at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate,…

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