New research office to further explore ‘bio-technological frontier’

The Defense Advance Research Program Agency announced Tuesday the creation of its newest division, launched to delve into the increasing intersection of biology and the physical sciences.

The Biological Technologies Office expands on DARPA’s efforts by the Defense Sciences and Microsystems Technology Offices, which DARPA said have been making progress recently in neuroscience, sensor design, microsystems and computer science. These developments have led the agency to believe there is newly emergent potential ready to be realized.

“The Biological Technologies Office will advance and expand on a number of earlier DARPA programs that made preliminary inroads into the bio-technological frontier,” said Geoff Ling, director of BTO. “We’ve been developing the technological building blocks, we’ve been analyzing our results, and now we’re saying publicly to the research and development community, ‘We are ready to start turning the resulting knowledge into practical tools and capabilities.’”

Ling was named by DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar to be the first director of BTO.


Projects on the BTO agenda includes programs transferred from DSO and MTO, but also new opportunities, such as the Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces, which builds on the work of DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics and Reliable Neural-Interface Technology programs.

Aside from those projects, BTO will have three main research focus areas: restore and maintain warfighter abilities, harness biological systems, and apply biological complexity at scale.

“Biology is nature’s ultimate innovator, and any agency that hangs its hat on innovation would be foolish not to look to this master of networked complexity for inspiration and solutions,” Prabhakar said in her testimony at a Subcommittee on Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities hearing March 26.

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