IARPA-Funded Research Aims to Develop Rapid Identification of Gene-Based BioThreats

Fraunhofer CESE Teams with UM, Others to Win Fun GCAT Project

27.9.2017

IARPA-Funded Research Aims to Develop Rapid Identification of Gene-Based BioThreats

College Park, September 26,  2017

Advances in biotechnology and synthetic biology over the past decade have the potential to address important societal challenges in food, energy, and medicine. But these technological advances come with the potential for their deliberate or accidental misuse, warranting the development of approaches to help prevent the creation of biothreats.

Teaming with researchers from the University of Maryland, Austin-based Signature Science, LLC and several other partners, the Fraunhofer USA Center for Experimental Software Engineering CESE will provide software and systems engineering and quality assurance support over the course of the 18-month project. In particular, Fraunhofer will provide design expertise and agile development infrastructure to ensure that the software created by the distributed project team works correctly and meets requirements, while still being able to evolve quickly. The Functional Genomic and Computational Assessment of Threats (Fun GCAT) program, sponsored by the federal government’s Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), intends to develop new approaches and tools for screening of nucleic acid sequences, and for the functional annotation and characterization of genes of concern, with the goal of preventing the accidental or intentional creation of a biological threat. Fun GCAT program intends to develop next-generation computational and bioinformatics tools to improve DNA sequence screening, to augment biodefense capabilities through the characterization of threats based on function, and to advance our understanding of the relative risks posed by unknown nucleic acid sequences. 

“We’re extremely proud to be working on this project with such a high caliber project team. This project requires the building of very complex software that works quickly and reliably under tight resource constraints. Our project team brings together top expertise in biology, bioinformatics and software and systems engineering to solve that challenge”, said Dr. Adam Porter, CESE’s Executive and Scientific Director.

This effort is supported by the U.S. Army Research Office. The content of this release does not necessarily reflect the position or the policy of the Government, and no official endorsement should be inferred.

Fraunhofer USA, Inc. (FhUSA) is a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit charitable organization incorporated in Rhode Island, dedicated to the advancement of applied research. FhUSA was founded in 1994 to conduct applied R & D for customers from industry and state and federal governments. As the wholly owned US subsidiary of Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Europe's largest research and development organization, Fraunhofer USA has both domestic and international resources to enhance its portfolio of R & D services. 

Fraunhofer CESE, one of seven Centers comprising Fraunhofer USA, conducts applied research to support the software-enabled innovations created by our customers in industry, government, and academia.