DARPA is soliciting proposals to develop agile, reliable sensing devices that leverage microbes for environmental monitoring. Specifically, DARPA seeks to establish the range of chemical and physical stimuli that microbial “devices” can detect, environmental conditions they can tolerate, options for biologically encoded information processing, types of output signals that can be generated, and theoretical stand-off or remote distances at which these signals could be detected. Tellus will focus on developing a Methodology that enables the reliable and reproducible design of agile, robust, and durable microbial sensors for environmental monitoring.
Proposals are to focus on developing
- an interactive Methodology that enables rapid design of robust, reliable, user-specified microbial sense-and-respond devices in appropriate environments, and
- fabrication and testing of several such microbial devices (“Tellus devices”).
Proposers are required to address both Methodology Development with a user interface and Tellus Device Fabrication.
Key technical challenges that will need to be overcome by the Tellus program:
- Sensing and discriminating between different combinations of multiple stimuli.
- Lowering limits-of-detection without increasing background.
- Employing more sensitive receptors which have inherently smaller dynamic ranges that suffer from saturation at higher concentrations.
- Difficulty of use in realistic environmental conditions.
- Integration with “receiver” device(s) to collect/measure output signals.
- Overcoming genetic burden of added pathways/circuits on cells/efficacy.
- Determining whether to use single cells vs. multiple cells or consortia.
- Difficulties associated with robust circuitry design and high throughput testing.
- Response time needed for processing stimuli.
- Developing strategies to record and store stimulus detection events for retrieval at a later time.
- Multiplexing sensing modalities.
- Operating discriminately in the presence of confounders
Abstracts due 18 May 2023. Full proposals due 6 July 2023.
Document for Download
Broad Agency Announcement HR001123S0027 (1)