P3 Program Participants at Work

The agency noted that the increasing threat of infectious diseases spurs the need for breakthrough technologies and capabilities to protect first responders and equip them with therapeutics to stop infectious agents.

DARPA has announced the institutions participating in its Pandemic Prevention Platform program, or P3, which began in 2017 and aims to halt the spread of any infectious disease outbreak before it can escalate into a pandemic. At the recent AAAS Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas, Col. Matthew Hepburn, M.D., the program manager for P3, announced that all performer institutions are now on contract and moving forward with the program's goals of developing technology to halt the spread of pandemic infectious diseases. The institutions funded through the program include Duke University, Vanderbilt University, MedImmune, and Abcellera Biologics Inc.

The agency noted that the increasing threat of infectious diseases spurs the need for breakthrough technologies and capabilities to protect first responders and equip them with therapeutics to stop infectious agents. "Current approaches for recent public health emergencies due to infectious diseases have not produced effective preventive or therapeutic solutions in a relevant timescale. Examples from recent outbreaks such as H3N2 (flu), Ebola, and Zika viruses highlight the significant lag in deployment and efficacy of life-saving solutions," it said.

The P3 performer teams are developing technologies for an end-to-end pandemic response platform and are tasked with developing technologies to deliver antibodies using nucleic acid technology and achieve serum concentrations of the antibodies that can protect against the pathogen within three days after administration.

"Advances in medical countermeasures have formed a strong foundation, enabling the creation of a true end-to-end pandemic prevention platform. However, experience gained from conventional responses to emerging infectious diseases has demonstrated that significant bottlenecks hinder the rapid response to an emerging infectious threat," Hepburn said. "P3 seeks to demonstrate an ability to rapidly produce virus needed to test and evaluate therapies, obtain high potency antibodies within the first weeks of an outbreak, and to scale delivery methods into humans to produce protective levels inside the patient."

The teams will be evaluated on the results of their clinical trial and their ability to complete the end-to-end process within 60 days from the time the pathogen-containing sample is first obtained. They will target viral pathogens that include influenza, chikungunya, MERS-CoV, and Mayaro virus.

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