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Updated: 8 hours 14 min ago
Military service members rely on effective vaccination for the prevention of communicable disease and to guard against biothreat exposure, but current vaccine development is expensive, time-consuming and prone to failure. Many current vaccines do not provide effective protection over long periods of time, and there are multiple pathogens that lack prophylactic options. Immune response to vaccines is unpredictable, transient and ineffective, largely due to a lack of understanding of the complex mechanisms of action underlying immune memory. The Assessing Immune Memory (AIM) program seeks to develop a platform capability to predict immune memory informed by a systems-level view of the host response to vaccination and its mechanisms.
DARPA has selected multiple performers to continue the Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel Effectors (CRANE) program. Aurora Flight Sciences and Lockheed Martin Corporation are now entering Phase 1, which includes system requirements development, initial design work, software development, and initial airworthiness activities that culminate in a preliminary design review.
Slow production methods and reliance on a global supply chain currently limit DoD access to critical proteins such as medical countermeasures (MCMs) (i.e. antibodies, vaccines, and clotting factors), diagnostic components, and key enzymes for producing nucleic acids. State-of-the-art protein-based MCM production calls for massive centralized infrastructure and complex pipelines that require lengthy cellular engineering, sufficient growth of cells, and intensive purification and quality control.
In this episode of the Voices from DARPA podcast, John-Francis Mergen, a program manager since 2020 in the agency's Information Innovation Office, recounts how his interest in science took off as a child when he received a gift of a low-power magnifier from a family friend who was a geologist. From that gift, Mergen says, he learned about the power of observation and of the mindset one brings into that elemental component of the scientific enterprise.