DARPA developing “on-demand production” of genetically engineered bio-products
By End the Lie
The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA) – often described as the mad scientist research arm of the Pentagon due to their fantastical projects like weaponized hallucinations, dirt cheap miniature spy computers, increasingly lifelike humanoid robots and more – is now in the process of developing a kind of factory for man-made organisms.
Their new program, called “Living Foundries,” was originally announced last year and aims to create a type of assembly line for genetically engineered products – assumedly for military applications since that is what DARPA is all about.
DARPA recently announced eight research awards totaling some $15.5 million in funds as part of this initiative including:
$3.6 million to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
$691,559 to the University of Texas at Austin
$2.1 million to California Institute of Technology
$1 million to the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution
$3 million to J. Craig Venter Institute, Inc. (JCVI)
$964,587 to J. Craig Venter Institute, Inc. (two separate awards)
$907,269 to the President and Fellows of Harvard College
$3,195,958 to the Leland Stanford Junior University
The two awards to JCVI shouldn’t be all too surprising given that Dr. Venter is well known as one of the first scientists to sequence a human genome. Furthermore, his lab was the first to develop an entirely synthetic organism in 2010.
The goal of the Living Foundries program is to radically transform the currently slow and expensive process of genetic engineering into a standardized and streamlined factory-like process.
Genetic engineering has progressed in leaps and bounds over recent years. Consider the goats which produce “milk” made of webs which is then layered with laboratory-grown human skin in order to make a substance four times stronger than Kevlar, genetically engineered bacteria which produce renewable fuels, pharmaceuticals created by genetically engineered organisms, and even modified bacteria which could turn sewage into electricity.
Unfortunately, DARPA isn’t seeking out this technology in order to create endless free energy for the world, as they are by definition researching for “defensive” (which more often than not means offensive) purposes.
DARPA bemoans the fact that the bleeding edge of synthetic biological technologies “often take 7+ years and tens to hundreds of millions of dollars” to come to fruition (like Venter’s synthetic cell which cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 million according to Popular Mechanics).
The agency doesn’t have that kind of patience, so they are now seeking out an “on-demand production” solution which could produce any bio-product that the military decides it urgently needs.
This would be done through revising the entire process of biologically engineering substances all the way from initial design to the actual construction of the material or organism to quality control also known as efficacy evaluation.
This will be done though the creation of a library of “modular genetic parts,” which are standardized bits of biological matter which can then be assembled into various other materials, somewhat like the raw materials for most other mass-produced items.
Once they have created this library, DARPA wants to then create sets of “parts, regulators devices and circuits” which, together, can reliably create various genetic systems.
I think of this somewhat like the pipes, fittings and pumps required to assemble a working sewage system which can be assembled in nearly infinite combinations in order to meet nearly infinite sets of requirements.
They then seek to create “test platforms” which would test these new products quickly and effectively in order to make sure the production is actually working.
Katie Drummond of Danger Room put it like this, “Think of it as a biological assembly line: Products are designed, pieced together using standardized tools and techniques, and then tested for efficacy.”
Once DARPA establishes this factory-style approach to bio-engineering, it will not only speed up the process dramatically, but also cut costs significantly.
Indeed, DARPA is specifically saying that researchers should “compress the biological design-build-test cycle by at least 10X in both time and cost,” while still, “increasing the complexity of systems that can be designed and executed.”
While this might sound like a tall order – perhaps even an unreasonably complex request – if anyone knows DARPA’s history they know that this is precisely how they operate.
Indeed, it is likely the case that this type of technology (at least as far as the public knows) is not going to be implemented any time in the immediate future. This was emphasized by the Department of Energy’s Daniel Drell who told Science Insider last year, “I don’t think this is going to be easy,” adding, “Biology is going to fight them.”
That being said, I still find it concerning that this type of money and effort is not going towards creating mass-scale solutions to the world’s problems but instead going towards weapons and military applications.
Drummond highlights this in writing, “it might be a few years, at least, before Darpa’s bio-creations try to fight us.”
The fact that they are devoting all of this money, time and effort not to bettering the world and the future of humanity but instead endangering it is just more proof that our government is using our tax dollars to actively work against us, not for us, as so many falsely believe.
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