New Frontiers of Military Medical Research

Futuristic Projects Revealed in Pentagon’s DARPA research budget for 2012

The US military is ramping up research to find new ways to treat wounded soldiers quickly and effectively. The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently announced their budget proposal for 2012, revealing an impressive array of futuristic medical research. Here are 5 DARPA projects that, if successful, may lead to breakthroughs in emergency medical care for civilians in the future:

New Frontiers of Military Medical Research -

*ADEPT – The Autonomous Diagnostics to Enable Prevention and Therapeutics project involves designing portable diagnostic devices that can rapidly diagnose and prevent exposure to disease threats. The devices will be programmed to detect emerging threats and allow for extraction of targeted biomarkers from a dried format specimen (such as blood and urine) that has been stored at room temperature. The DARPA budget estimates $15 million for this project in 2012.

*Human Assisted Neural Devices – The aim of this project is to develop devices to restore memory by bridging gaps in injured brains, so that wounded soldiers can be returned to active duty quickly with improved performance on the battlefield. DARPA says this research will significantly advance models of how the human brain works in terms of short-term memory encoding, neural computation and reorganization. The 2012 estimate is $14.9 million and $34.2 million was allocated for the two years prior.

*Tactical Biomedical Technologies – More than half of the fatalities on the battlefield are due to hemorrhage. This initiative will enable nonmedical personnel to diagnose and treat injuries, including locating and stopping deep bleeders in the thorax or abdomen. Researchers are also working to develop new pain control treatments that can be administered in medically unmonitored sites like the battlefield. The budget estimate for 2012 is $17 million.

*Blood Pharming – The objective of the blood pharming project is to quickly produce a large quantity of safe, transfusable blood, satisfying a large battlefield demand and reducing the logistics of sourcing donated blood. Biotech firm Arteriocyte worked with researchers at Johns Hopkins University to develop the NANEX Stem Cell Expansion technology, which allows for quick reproduction of universal donor red blood units from umbilical cord blood. The technology shows promise in the lab, but requires further development to produce a large supply of red blood cells at an effective cost. DARPA has earmarked $4.3 million for the blood pharming project in 2012, further to the $17 million total allocated in 2010-2011.

*Virtual Tricorder Program – Remember the medical tricorder used by Mr. Spock on the show Star Trek? The DARPA project involves developing a technology to analyze data collected on individual patients to visualize and assess their health status. Data would then be compared to electronic medical records. By running simulations, the tricorder could help physicians predict how pharmaceuticals would affect the patient. No specific funds are budgeted for 2012, but conceptual work will begin to develop techniques for combining medical imagery and modeling the physiological impact of medications.


Visit DARPA to learn about the Department of Defense’s primary innovation agency. To read more about DARPA projects for 2012, visit the News + Events/Budget.

Originally published on GE Healthy Outlook, May 27, 2011. Copyright Jane Langille.

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