DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, announced yesterday the creation of its new Biological Technologies Office that seeks to integrate disciplines such as computer science, microsystems, sensor design, and neuroscience, saying that biology is one of the “core sciences” in defense technology’s future.Staying ahead of the shifting technology curve and enable revolutionary new capabilities for U.S. national security has always been one of DARPA’s main priority.
With its new division, the Biological Technologies Office (BTO), DARPA aims to explore the increasingly dynamic intersection of biology and the physical sciences. The defense agency is giving unprecedented prominence to a field of research that can no longer be considered peripheral to technology’s evolving nature: from now biology takes its place among the core sciences that represent the future of defense technology.
The initial BTO portfolio includes programs transferred from Defense Sciences (DSO) and Microsystems Technology (MTO) Offices, but will also include new opportunities, beginning with the recently announced Hand Proprioception & Touch Interfaces (HAPTIX) program that expands on the work of DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics and Reliable Neural-Interface Technology programs.
“Before BTO, DARPA had a handful of biologists, neuroscientists, engineers, and the like, interested in synthesizing their work but distributed across different offices,” Ling said. “Now we’re under one roof, so to speak, and looking to attract a new community of scholars, who will bring a host of new ideas at the intersection of traditional and emerging disciplines.”
Because BTO programs push the leading edge of science, they will sometimes be society’s first encounter with the ethical, legal, or social dilemmas that can be raised by new biological technologies. For that reason, DARPA periodically convenes scholars with expertise in these issues to discuss relevant ethical, legal, and social issues.