DARPA initiates pores and skin microbiome analysis to forestall mosquito-borne ailments

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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Stanford University and Ginkgo Bioworks ReVector Program Phase 1 contracts to initiate initiatives to modify microbiomes to reduce mosquito-borne diseases.

DARPA claims mosquitoes are of concern to the Department of Defense as they transmit pathogens that cause diseases such as chikungunya, Zika, dengue fever, West Nile virus, yellow fever and malaria.

The ReVector program aims to maintain the health of military personnel working in disease-endemic regions by reducing the attraction and diet of mosquitoes while limiting exposure to mosquito-borne diseases.

DARPA said the two organizations would develop precise, safe and effective technologies that modulate the profile of skin-associated volatile molecules by altering the organisms present in the skin microbiome and / or their metabolic processes.

“The selected efforts have assembled teams with expertise in synthetic biology, human microbiome and mosquito studies,” said Linda Chrisey, program manager, ReVector. “The cross-disciplinary composition of the teams enables the broad knowledge and skills required to tackle the ReVector challenges and positions them to create an innovative solution to protect warfighters from mosquitos.”

Phase 1 of the ReVector program, which is officially expected to last 18 months, will focus on modifying in vitro microbiomes. Phase 2, which will also last 18 months, will focus on modifying the microbiomes of animal models for 12 months. Phase 3 will be aimed at clinical trials.

End products from each of the three phases are tested and assessed for their ability to repel mosquitoes by national laboratories.

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