DARPA Launches P3 Program

The Pandemic Prevention Platform program aims to facilitate a system capable of halting the spread of any viral disease outbreak before it can escalate to pandemic status.

DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, announced Feb. 6 that it has launched the Pandemic Prevention Platform (P3) program in order to facilitate a system capable of halting the spread of any viral disease outbreak before it can escalate to pandemic status. "Such a capability would offer a stark contrast to the state of the art for developing and deploying traditional vaccines—a process that does not deliver treatments to patients until months, years, or even decades after a viral threat emerges," according to the agency.

DARPA-funded researchers have pioneered RNA vaccine technology, a medical countermeasure against infectious diseases. "DARPA's goal is to create a technology platform that can place a protective treatment into health providers' hands within 60 days of a pathogen being identified and have that treatment induce protection in patients within three days of administration. We need to be able to move at this speed, considering how quickly outbreaks can get out of control," said Matt Hepburn, the P3 program manager. "The technology needs to work on any viral disease, whether it's one humans have faced before or not."

The effort follows some recent outbreaks of viral infectious diseases, including Zika, H1N1 influenza, and Ebola. According to the DARPA announcement, nucleic-acid-based technologies—those centered on DNA and RNA—are key to the effort. They include some developed under DARPA’s Autonomous Diagnostics to Enable Prevention and Therapeutics (ADEPT) program.

DARPA is hosting two Proposers Days about the new program. The first will be in McLean, Va., on Feb. 22 and the second in San Diego on March 2. For registration information, visit this page. Proposal abstracts are due March 13 and full proposals are due by 5 p.m. Eastern on May 1.

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