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DARPA SBIR HR001120S0019
NOTE: The Solicitations and topics listed on this site are copies from the various SBIR agency solicitations and are not necessarily the latest and most up-to-date. For this reason, you should use the agency link listed below which will take you directly to the appropriate agency server where you can read the official version of this solicitation and download the appropriate forms and rules.
The official link for this solicitation is: https://rt.cto.mil/rtl-small-business-resources/sbir-sttr/
Application Due Date:
Available Funding Topics
OBJECTIVE: The goal of GRIDMAPS is to enable critical long-term resilience by developing a power flow and connectivity modeling program that can: i) integrate data in real-time with the dynamic and potentially re-infected grid landscape as it undergoes incremental cyber clean up; ii) provide real time operational feedback; iii) create relevant data that can rapidly inform decisions; and iv) assist in successful restoration to critical facilities.
Black Start success is highly dependent on real-time situational awareness and the ability to respond to the availability of grid elements during a restart. Cyber induced blackout responses have significant inherent uncertainties that demand flexibility. Specifically, the challenge is to identify for use the available power system routes found only from understanding power capacity and flow limitations. Real-time, flexible tools that aid understanding of i) electric power system states of being, ii) black start power supply capacities and iii) pivot locations around unavailable transmission and distribution lines will improve success potential exponentially in returning power to critical assets.
The tools needed are not intended to replace legacy state analysis tools, rather to offer a rapid response planning and estimating capability to better inform black start operations.Specifically, it is known that electric grids after a cyber incident will largely be unavailable. Black start begins at the lowest elements with individual generators feeding local distribution systems that migrate one segment at a time to substations that feed power to a larger and larger generation capacity. This, in effect, restores the grid one electrical island at a time, and eventually combines into larger islands feeding critical loads.
The proving ground is found by taking the system model with all elements offline. Then individually turn each back on starting with the black start generators followed by each section of distribution/substation/transmission as they are cleansed and released for use.
Long range goals include assisting in developing best practices for black start scenarios, achieving quicker response to power grid failures, and assisting in building a viable national resilience framework.
This is a Direct to Phase II ONLY.Performers must demonstrate knowledge, skills and ability with power systems as well as contingency and rapid analytics to include variable load flow conditions. Proof of understanding and ability to ingest power system diagrams of the conventional, electrical and systems type is required. Presentation materials and/or white papers, technical papers, test data, prototype designs/models and performance goals/results on power grid systems and related topics will be expected to verify mastery of the required content.
For detailed information on DP2 requirements and eligibility, please refer to Section 4.2, Direct to Phase II (DP2) Requirements, and Appendix B of HR001120S0019.
As part of this 24-month, $1.25M, Direct to Phase II SBIR topic, Proposers will:
- Execute a research plan that includes defining how to ingest existing system modeling (system impedance models used for SCADA and EMS systems) while allowing for current system state updates.
- In concert with Utility practitioners, develop “What If” modeling techniques to support decisions surrounding unavailable desired power grid routing if cyber cleansing was unsuccessful.
- Develop tools with the ability to aid in rapid grid restoration.
- Develop product requirements for tools that could identify power flow limitations based on available limits (for example, the current limits of generator or power lines) supporting informed decision making.
- Develop capability in a mobile distributed platform for both generation and utility operations to leverage since data centers and large computing assets would not be available in a large scale outage.
- Complete a commercialization plan that addresses relevant costs of materials, potential material and equipment suppliers, market opportunity and anticipated positioning, and unique intellectual property.
Schedule/Milestones/Deliverables Phase II fixed milestones for this program should include:
- Month 2: Report on lessons learned, updated architectures, algorithms, and learning approaches
- Month 4: Report on acquisition of Phase II real-world data sets, proposed evaluation metrics, and initial analyses results
- Month 6: Interim report describing performance of real-world system
- Month 8: Interim report quantifying system performance, comparing with alternative state-of-the art approaches using machine learning, control theory or other conventional methods, and documenting lessons learned
- Month 10:Demonstrate GUI for new users with unassisted ability in selecting inputs/outputs, reports and analytics
- Month 12: Final Phase II report documenting final prototype architectures and algorithms, methods, results, comparisons with alternative methods, and quantification of accuracy, robustness, and generalizability
- Option Period:If exercised, milestones will be reviewed for appropriate consideration and modification.
PHASE III: The primary support will be to the Department of Energy (DOE) and its power grid subsidiary communities involved with distribution, generation, and transmission in addition to those entities reliant upon them.The benefits, when scalable, would be multi-faceted across the whole of government through these entities that provide power to the DoD to include the DOE, Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC) and all commercial power providers.The technology, in the form of cyber tools, would be available for both power generation and utility operations to leverage as a fundamental capability supporting grid resilience.They are not intended to replace legacy state analysis tools, but to offer improved rapid response planning and estimating capability through interactive feedback that better informs black start operations from an evolving threat perspective.Partners from these areas of government and industry are likely sources of Phase III funding.
KEYWORDS: Grid, Redesign, Integration, Defense, Modeling, Analysis, Power Systems, cybersecurity, rapid, flow, connectors
 North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), Glossary of Terms Used in NERC Reliability Standards, last updated February 24, 2020, p. 16, https://www.nerc.com/files/glossary_of_terms.pdf
 NERC, “About Alerts,” n.d., https://www.nerc.com/pa/rrm/bpsa/Pages/About-Alerts.aspx
 DOE, United States Electricity Industry Primer, July 2015, p. 33, https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2015/12/f28/united-states-electricity-industry-primer.pdf
 Paul Stockton, Resilience for Grid Security Emergencies: Opportunities for Industry-Government Collaboration, 2018, https://www.jhuapl.edu/Content/documents/ResilienceforGridSecurityEmergencies.pdf
TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Bio Medical, Chem Bio Defense
OBJECTIVE: This SBIR would enhance detection of pathogens from complex samples by developing a high-throughput, low-cost, physiologically realistic model system that demonstrates human tissue hierarchy and cellular heterogeneity and, critically, is compatible with high-speed microfluidics.
Warfighters are travelers, continually exposed to new environments and new pathogens. These new pathogens are increasingly likely to emerge and spread due to changes in the environment, rising global population, and the ready availability of global travel. This necessitates new and improved high-throughput tools that can identify new threats, reveal how they are pathogenic, and screen potential treatments.
Current model systems that can examine the interactions between host and pathogen are limited either by the time required to return an answer or by the level of complexity inherent in the system. For instance, while tissue culture cells have a relatively low cost and a high speed turn-around, they do not replicate host complexity. Animal models clearly demonstrate physiologically relevant responses to a pathogen, but also require significant time, money, and often extensive adaptation or modification to recapitulate human disease, further increasing costs and delay. Recent efforts using organized and differentiated human cells to represent a human, such as organoids and organ-on-a-chip technologies, show promise in bridging these gaps. Yet, to be useful in detecting novel pathogens, they still require much greater throughput and significantly lower costs. DARPA seeks technologies that eliminate the bottleneck in determining the pathogenicity of unknown bacteria by achieving the complexity of an in vivo model while matching the speed and throughput of microfluidics based assays.
To ensure relevance to pathogen detection, the technology should:
- Be based on human cells and tissues
- Preserve cellular diversity and hierarchy
- Demonstrate differential responses to pathogens similar to in vivo models, producing more information than tissue culture cells.
Of particular interest would be a system that captures the genetic diversity of a population, in contrast to the constrained diversity of immortalized cell lines. Additionally, technology developed through this SBIR should be high-throughput, capable of testing at least 1,000 pathogen/host interactions in a day, have the capability to replicate tissue-level responses, and be miniaturized for high-throughput platform assays. The technology should be available “on demand” by reconstitution from frozen stocks of cells. Lastly, technology should be transferrable to new users and adaptable to the high throughput technologies associated with pathogen and drug screening
Phase I should develop technology that replicates the host's response to at least two pathogenic and two non-pathogenic organisms. System complexity should exceed that of tissue culture and represent pathogenicity comparable to in vivo models. Lastly, proposers must identify concepts and methods to scale-up for high-throughput testing, and provide a plan for practical deployment of the proposed technology.
- Month 1: Report comparing the developing technology to both a relevant tissue culture cell model and actual or reported human and in vivo model phenotypes using ≥3 tissue relevant bacterial pathogenic species.
- Month 3: Report of studies to identify and define differential markers of host susceptibility consistent with establishing performance goals.
- Month 4: Demonstrate and report a prototype assay that can differentiate pathogenic from non-pathogenic bacteria with quantification of the error rate, signal, and noise.
- Month 5: Interim report comparing response to pathogen between cells before and after freeze-thaw.
- Month 6: Final Phase I report summarizing approach; comparison of how technology's response replicates host complexity significantly as compared to tissue culture cells; comparison with other state-of-the-art methodology; quantification of accuracy; quantification of robustness to errors, noise and model or assessment of the limits required to meet performance goals.
Phase II will focus on advancing the technology's performance—increasing the breadth of host/pathogen markers, demonstrating rapid technology deployment upon receipt, and scaling the technology for commercialization. The result of this SBIR will be a prototype that could be readily tested for high-throughput analysis and for ease of operation by a separate lab. Proposers should demonstrate commercial merit and feasibility of the technology to be disseminated to downstream users.
The ultimate system must demonstrate the capability to identify host responses to pathogens with a testing throughput of at least 1,000 pathogens/day. Additionally, the technology must demonstrate the capacity to be rapidly brought online from either frozen or other preservation methods to processing at least 5,000 pathogens in a week.
Phase II option year would involve work with academic or commercial partners to demonstrate the technology.
- Month 2: New Capabilities Report, that identifies additions and modifications that will be researched, developed, and customized for incorporation in the pilot demonstration.
- Month 4: Interim decision report on marker technology describing relative strengths and weaknesses of selected reporters, and results of tests demonstrating their capacity to meet the throughput goals.
- Month 12: Demonstrate and deliver a report for a prototype system that can identify at least 3 host/pathogen responses relevant to niche finding, immune system evasion, or the degradation of membranes and that is compatible with high-throughput sample processing and decision making for at least 3 pathogens relevant to the target tissue.
- Month 15: Report describing the examination of additional tissue types for technology expansion including examination of cellular diversity and hierarchy and comparison of the ability to differentiate pathogen vs. non pathogen.
- Month 18: Report on demonstration of the technology with models of at least 3 more relevant tissue types derived from at least 3 more genetically distinct tissues.
- Month 24: Demonstrate and deliver a report for a prototype system that can identify at least 10 responses of the host cells to a pathogen. The approach should becompatible with high-throughput sample processing, should demonstrate a range of responses, and should stem from interactions with at least 3 pathogens relevant to the target tissue.
Phase II OptionPhase II option year would focus on improving performance by working with academic or commercial partners to increase the number of tissues that can be deployed, and the speed with which they can by employed. The technology should also be refined and scaled for commercialization.
- Month 30: Report on successful demonstration of the technology by a team without prior experience with the technology. A successful demonstration would identify a biological interaction revealed by the multicellular construct that is not seen in individual cells or in cultures of immortalized cells.
- Month 36: Report on successful demonstration of the technology by a team without prior experience with the technology. A successful demonstration would identify at least 3 different biological interactions revealed by the multicellular construct that is not seen in individual cells or in cultures of immortalized cells. The test must be performed on the prototype device using components delivered and stored in a manner consistent with future commercialization, such as being thawed from stock that had been frozen and shipped.
PHASE III: Potential customers include government agencies with interests in high-throughput pathogen detection as well as other government and non-government partners working in areas from basic research to clinical applications. Technology developed may be transitioned directly as tools or advanced therapies, or licensed as intellectual property to speed development of advanced therapies by others.
KEYWORDS: High-throughput; Pathogen-detection; Tissue complexity; Cellular hierarchy; Alternative in vivo models
 Simian, M., and Bissell, M. Organoids: A historical perspective of thinking in three dimensions. Journal of Cell Biology. (2017) 216(1): 31-40. DOI:10.1083/jcb.201610056
 Fatehullah, A., Tan, H.S., and Barker, N. Organoids as an in vitro model of human development and disease. Nature Cell Biology. (2016) 18(3): 246-254. DOI:10.1038/ncb3312
Rapid, flexible de novo manufacturing of DNA molecules for synthetic biology and therapeutic applications
TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Bio Medical, Chem Bio Defense
OBJECTIVE: Develop a rapid and cost-effective de novo synthetic DNA manufacturing capability.
There is a critical DoD need to be able to rapidly and efficiently synthesize highly accurate kilobase (kb) pair length DNA constructs for medical countermeasure and synthetic biology applications.Several DARPA programs and technologies (ex: Living Foundries, PREPARE, P3) rely heavily on synthetic DNA and the timely generation, manipulation, and delivery of genetic constructs. Current synthetic DNA production is costly, time-consuming, and requires highly specialized technical expertise and equipment. Consequently, few commercial suppliers are capable of producing synthetic DNA at a length that is appropriate for DARPA technologies (i.e.>2,500 base pairs (bp)) in the days-long turnaround time required for rapid response. First, due to the limited capability base, commercial sources experience significant backlog in synthetic DNA production services, extending R&D timelines dependent on gene-encoded products, and increasing costs for the consumer. Second, current methods for synthesis or assembly of kilobase length constructs are often error prone, requiring manual purification and/or analytics steps to achieve the final product. Third, as demand for synthetic DNA production increases, any achieved throughput increases will need to maintain or even decrease the cost per base pair.
Phase I proposals should advance the science of de novo DNA synthesis and develop a platform capable of generating oligonucleotides of sufficient sequence accuracy, length, diversity, and quantity for downstream assembly into full-length fragments. To progress from Phase I to Phase II efforts, performers must demonstrate assembly of final product (>2,500 bp) from their synthesized oligonucleotides using either a commercially available methodology or a novel proprietary DNA assembly method. Direct to Phase II proposals must include development of both the de novo DNA synthesis AND assembly platforms.
Requirements for de novo DNA synthesis platform:
- Phase I: The de novo DNA synthesis platform must have the capacity to synthesize, in two weeks, a sufficient quantity of >150 bp oligonucleotides at >99% accuracy, which, when assembled, would generate at least 96 unique >2,500 bp fragments (for example, assembling 96 unique 2,500 bp sequences would require either 1,600 oligonucleotides of 150 bp, or 960 oligonucleotides of 250 bp);
- Phase I transition to Phase II: Assembly of final product must be demonstrated using either a commercially available assembly method or a novel, proprietary assembly method; 96 unique 2,500 bp products assembled at 99% accuracy after error correction methodologies are applied;
- Phase I and II: Product accuracy must be determined utilizing a sequencing technology;
- Phase I and II: Reagents must be non-hazardous and ideally aqueous;
- Phase II: Cost per nucleotide in final product must be < $0.03 per bp.
Table 1: De novo DNA manufacturing SBIR metricsPhase I(6 months) Phase I(11 months) Phase II(13 months) Phase II(24 months) Phase II(36 months)
Oligonucleotide length 150 bp 150 bp 150 bp 150 bp 150 bpAssembled DNA sequence length Unspecified; must simply demonstrate assembly 2,500 2,500 2,500 2,500Number of DNA sequences Unspecified; must simply demonstrate assembly 96 96 192 288Timeframe N/A 2 weeks 2 weeks 1 week 1 weekPrototype status Air-gapped synthesis and assembly modules Air-gapped synthesis and assembly modules Air-gapped synthesis and assembly modules Alpha prototype Beta prototypeCost per nucleotide Unspecified Unspecified <$0.03 <$0.03 <$0.03Accuracy of assembled product N/A N/A >99% >99% >99%
De novo DNA synthesis platform: Performers will develop a rapid de novo DNA synthesis platform capable of generating oligonucleotides greater than 150 bp long with an accuracy of >99%.The oligonucleotide products should be produced in sufficient quantities for downstream assembly and error-correction into larger templates, although innovation in DNA assembly is not required in Phase I.Specifically, the de novo DNA synthesis platform should produce enough product within a two week production timeframe to enable assembly of 96 unique >2,500 bp fragments.To transition to Phase II, performers must demonstrate the platform's capability of producing these oligonucleotides based on DARPA-defined targets in less than two weeks. Performers must additionally demonstrate assembly of the oligonucleotides into 96 unique >2,500 bp DNA products utilizing either a commercially available or novel, proprietary method.
Schedule/Milestones/Deliverables for de novo DNA synthesis platformPhase I deliverables: Basic prototype design of the de novo DNA synthesis platform and associated assembly method in a final report that must include: (1) prototype performance metrics; (2) results of the capability demonstration; (3) proposed methods to scale de novo DNA synthesis towards production levels capable of generating more than 192 unique sequences in one week; and (4) competitive assessment of the market.
Plans for Phase II should include optimization design goals and key technological milestones to scale no less than 192 or more unique 2,500 bp DNA molecules or equivalent oligonucleotides to assemble in one week.
Proposers interested in submitting a Direct to Phase II (DP2) proposal must provide de novo DNA synthesis AND assembly platform documentation to substantiate that the scientific and technical merit and feasibility described above has been met and describes the potential commercial applications. Documentation should include all relevant information including, but not limited to: technical reports, test data, prototype designs/models, and performance goals/results. For detailed information on DP2 requirements and eligibility, please refer to Section 4.2, Direct to Phase II (DP2) Requirements, and Appendix B of HR001120S0019.
Schedule/Milestones/Deliverables Phase I fixed payable milestones for this program should include:
- Month 1: Kickoff meeting and initial report on status of de novo DNA synthesis methodology and approach for meeting phase I requirements
- Month 6: Demonstrate ability to synthesize >150 base pair oligonucleotides at >99% accuracy; demonstrate initial assembly of those oligonucleotides into longer DNA molecules
- Month 11: Demonstrate ability to scale oligonucleotide synthesis for assembly into 96 unique DNA molecules greater than 2,500 base pairs in length in two weeks
- Month 12: Final Phase I Report summarizing de novo DNA synthesis approach; report summarizing ability to assemble 96 unique DNA sequences of greater than 2,500 base pairs in length utilizing either a commercially available or novel, proprietary methodology.
De novo synthesis and assembly platform:Develop and demonstrate a flexible, multiplexed platform for the rapid de novo synthesis of DNA molecules based on the basic prototype developed during Phase I. The platform should enable scaled de novo synthesis of at least 192 unique gene sequences of at least 2,500 bp. At the end of Phase II, performers will demonstrate the feasibility of producing 192 unique DNA sequences based on DARPA-defined targets in one week.Sequences produced for each milestone in this phase must be more than 99% accuracy and less than $0.03 per nucleotide.
Phase II deliverables: Working prototype of the multiplexed system and a final report that includes: (1) system performance metrics; (2) results of the capability demonstration; and (3) projections for commercial scale manufacturing yield and costs.
Schedule/Milestones/Deliverables Phase II fixed payable milestones for this program should include:
- Month 13: Demonstrate ability to synthesize and assemble at least 96 unique DNA sequences greater than 2,500 base pair with an accuracy of more than 99% in two weeks and <$0.03 per nucleotide.
- Month 24: Demonstrate ability to synthesize and assemble at least 192 unique DNA sequences greater than 2,500 base pairs with an accuracy of more than 99% in one week and <$0.03 per nucleotide.
- Option Month 36: Demonstrate ability to synthesize greater than 288 unique DNA sequences of greater than 2,500 base pairs in length on a beta prototype device with more than 99% accuracy and <$0.03 per nucleotide.
PHASE III: The commercial applications of synthetic DNA include, but are not limited to, applications for synthetic biology, manufacturing of protein therapeutics, and drug discovery modalities. These technologies create potential for the use of DNA technologies in cancer immunotherapy. DoD/military applications include generation of synthetic biology components required to produce DoD relevant materials and for the manufacturing of DNA-encoded antibodies and vaccines to provide protection against infectious diseases.
KEYWORDS: DNA, manufacturing, synthesis, synthetic biology, DNA assembly
 Randall A. Hughes and Andrew D. Ellington. Synthetic DNA Synthesis and Assembly: Putting the Synthetic in Synthetic Biology.Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2017 Jan 3;9(1)
 Palluk S. et. al.De novo DNA synthesis using polymerase-nucleotide conjugates. Nat Biotechnol. 2018 Aug;36(7):645-650. doi: 10.1038/nbt.4173. Epub 2018 Jun 18.]
TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Bio Medical, Chem Bio Defense
OBJECTIVE: Apply artificial intelligence (AI) to accelerate the design of highly specific, engineered biomarkers for rapid virus detection.
DESCRIPTION: This SBIR seeks to leverage AI technologies to accelerate the development of aptamer-based biosensors that specifically bind to biomolecular structures. Aptamers are short single-stranded nucleic acid sequences capable of binding three-dimensional biomolecular structures in a way similar to antibodies. Aptamers have several advantages as compared to antibodies, including long shelf-life, stability at room temperature, low/no immunogenicity, and low-cost. The current state-of-the-art aptamer designs rely heavily on in vitro approaches such as SELEX (Systematic Evolution of Ligands by Exponential Enrichment) and its advanced variations. SELEX is a cyclic process that involves multiple rounds of selection and amplification over a very large number of candidates (>10^15). The iterative and experimental nature of SELEX makes it time consuming (weeks to months) to obtain aptamer candidates, and the overall probability of ultimately obtaining a useful aptamer is low (30%-50%).Attempts to improve the performance of the original SELEX process generally result in increased system complexity and system cost as well as increased demand on special domain expertise for their use. Furthermore, a large number of parameters can influence the SELEX process. Therefore, this is a domain that is ripe for AI. Recent AI research has demonstrated the potential for machine learning technologies to encode domain knowledge to significantly constrain the solution space of optimization search problems such as solving the biomolecular inverse problems. Such in silico techniques consequently offer the potential to provide a cost-effective alternative to make aptamer design process more dependable, thereby, more efficient. This SBIR seeks to leverage emerging AI technologies to develop a desktop-based AI-assisted aptamer design capability that accelerates the identification of high-performance aptamers for detecting new biological antigens.
PHASE I: This SBO is accepting Direct to Phase II proposals ONLY. Proposers must show the feasibility of an algorithm prototype that can assist in vitro design of apatmers with improved binding potential over the baseline in vitro approaches. Such algorithm prototype should demonstrate the capability of an aptamer designed for detection of a unique protein/peptide with high affinity (the equilibrium dissociation constant, K_d <10 nM). Furthermore, Phase I must demonstrate that the computation complexity of the algorithm can be scaled to large search spaces (number of sequence candidates>1015) and can achieve the Phase II time efficient objective.
Phase II effort will focus on enhancing the computational algorithm performance and improving computational efficiency to be implementable with desktop computing resources and scalable to very large search spaces (number of sequence candidates >1015). Phase II will also develop an integration process that combines the in silico algorithms with in vitro processes that significantly improve the design consistency and autonomy. Collaboration with an in vitro aptamer designer is required. The combined approach will demonstrate rapid identification of promising aptamer biosensors (in days vs. weeks/months required for in vitro approaches alone) for detection of biological agents across classes of target proteins/peptides, with the probability of successfully identifying high-affinity (KD <1 nM) aptamer sequences greater than 90%. Phase II will demonstrate the design of two separate aptamers, each for unique proteins/peptides that achieve the performance metrics. Target classes of interest include pathogenic antigens (e.g., spike and/or coat proteins of new coronavirus or influenza) and secreted toxins (e.g., botulinum neurotoxins which are single polypeptide chains). Proposers may propose other biomolecular structure targets of interest. In the optional phase, the performer is also expected to improve the automation and demonstrate increased efficiency over Phase II performance objectives over additional targets.
- Month 1: Report describing the algorithms approaches, detailed experiment plan, data plan, targeted in vitro process for integration
- Month 3: Report on enhancement of algorithms and approaches' expanded capabilities, updated performance of the prototype algorithms
- Month 6: Interim report providing preliminary analysis of the algorithms, analysis of the potential for further improvement, and computation resource requirements
- Month 9: Report on initial integration of the in silico algorithms with the in vitro aptamer design process
- Month 12: Mid-term report updating the algorithms approach, comprehensive performance analysis, description of the integrated process and the advantages over the state-of-the-art; delivery of the first aptamer biosensor design with lab validation
- Month 15: Report describing the updated implementation of the application software prototype, integration enhancement, and revised quantification of the performance
- Month 18: On-site demonstration of the integrated design process
- Month 21: Report providing updated description of the integrated design process and the advanced features of the integration process
- Month 24: Final Phase II report documenting the algorithm approach, integrated design process, experimental results and performance analysis, comparison against state-of-the art, and plan for optional phase development; delivery of the second aptamer biosensor design with lab validation
- Month 27: Demonstration that the integration process exceeds Phase II performance objectives
- Month 30: Report documenting the final integrated design process and performance
PHASE III: Phase III focuses on improving in vivo performance of the aptamer sensors and developing both commercial and DoD applications. A commercially focused Phase III application could include the development of low-cost, home-use, lateral flow detection test kits for new strains of viral infections. The Phase III effort for DoD applications should result in the development of field tools that can accurately, effectively, and rapidly identify high-performance aptamer sequences for detecting novel pathogens in combat environments and biomarkers for biological weapons.
KEYWORDS: Biosensor design, Aptamer, SELEX, virus screening
 Song, Yanling, et al. "Discovery of Aptamers Targeting Receptor-Binding Domain of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike Glycoprotein." (2020)
 Tuerk, Craig, and Larry Gold. "Systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment: RNA ligands to bacteriophage T4 DNA polymerase." science 249.4968 (1990): 505-510
 Gotrik, Michael R., et al. "Advancements in aptamer discovery technologies." Accounts of chemical research 49.9 (2016): 1903-1910
 Wang, Tao, et al. "Three decades of nucleic acid aptamer technologies: Lessons learned, progress and opportunities on aptamer development." Biotechnology advances 37.1 (2019): 28-50
 Gold, Larry, et al. "Aptamer-based multiplexed proteomic technology for biomarker discovery." Nature Proceedings (2010): 1-1
OBJECTIVE: CHARIOT will develop revolutionary approaches for fast, efficient, and quantum-resistant cryptographic operations for Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Confidential communications, message integrity, group membership, and scalable key management must be demonstrated.
The exponential price/performance improvements in semiconductor technology stemming from Moore's Law are enabling even the smallest and most application-specific devices, such as sensors and actuators, to include networking capabilities. The overwhelming majority of such devices will be cheap and power-constrained. Low device costs permit deployment in unprecedented numbers, with some estimates as high as a trillion devices, which for CHARIOT we call “hyper-scale.” Support for communication amongst such devices in, or using, 5G wireless networks makes them “hyper-connected” and collectively they form what is called an Internet of Things (IoT).
Revolutionary security technologies are needed for IoT devices. The emergence of public-key cryptography, such as the RSA (Rivest-Shamir-Adleman) scheme predicated on the hardness of factoring, usednumber-theoretic concepts to derive protocols for confidential communications, identity verification with digital signatures, message integrity checking with secure hashing, etc. A logistical challenge arises, however, as these protocols presume the legitimacy of the public key used. While no universal public key infrastructure (PKI) exists, legitimacy is now “certified” using a sequence of digital signatures starting from a trusted authority such as the Department of Defense.
A 10+ year deployment lifetime is expected for some types of IoT devices. Today, energy (such as battery power) consumed by cryptographic operations reduces deployment lifetimes, discouraging manufacturers from including security. Further, Shor's algorithm, which uses quantum computing to accelerate factoring, undermines the security model of RSA-based cryptography.Quantum computing may appear before today's deployments end.CHARIOT's objective is solutions that are fast, efficient, and quantum-resistant on even the cheapest devices.
CHARIOT will prototype low-cost, low-footprint, post-quantum cryptographic techniques with minimal energy use for devices in an IoT.Technical requirements should have their genesis in expected use cases.Vehicle-embedded and wearable uses with a zero-trust networking architecture are of particular interest, e.g., uses within a larger scenario of wearable-equipped passengers entering, traveling in and departing from a vehicle such as a troop carrier or school bus.
Phase I feasibility will be demonstrated through evidence of: completed evaluations of security risks and vulnerabilities of existing IoT devices; definition and characterization of post-quantum security core competencies and attributes (i.e., the properties desirable for both DoD and civilian use); and comparisons with alternative state-of-the-art methodologies (competing approaches).Proposers interested in submitting a Direct to Phase II (DP2) proposal must provide documentation to substantiate that the scientific and technical merit and feasibility described above has been met and describes the potential commercial applications. DP2 documentation should include:
- technical reports describing results and conclusions of existing work, particularly regarding the commercial opportunity or DoD insertion opportunity, and risks/mitigations assessments;
- presentation materials and/or white papers;
- technical papers;
- test and measurement data;
- prototype designs/models;
- performance projections, goals, or results on systems at multiple price points; and,
- documentation of related topics such as how the proposed CHARIOT solution can enable zero-trust networking.
This collection of material will verify mastery of the required content for DP2 consideration.
DP2 proposers must also demonstrate knowledge, skills, and ability in cybersecurity, advanced cryptographic applications, computer science, mathematics, and software engineering.
For detailed information on DP2 requirements and eligibility, please refer to Section 4.2,Direct to Phase II (DP2) Requirements, and Appendix B of HR001120S0019.
The goals of the Direct to Phase II (or DP2) (24 months in duration) are to develop a compelling technology consistent with the CHARIOT goals to develop revolutionary approaches for fast, efficient, and quantum-resistant cryptographic operations for IoT devices. DP2 proposals should:
- describe a proposed design/architecture to achieve these goals, along with application programming interfaces that allow for a secure IoT ecosystem (e.g., one based on zero-trust principles);
- present a plan for maturation of the architecture to a prototype system to demonstrate confidential communications, message integrity, group membership, and scalable key management; and,
- detail a test plan, complete with proposed metrics and scope (e.g., network structure, types/numbers of devices, etc.), for verification and validation of the system cryptography.
Phase II will culminate in a system demonstration using one or more compelling IoT use cases consistent with commercial opportunities and/or insertion into the DARPA/I2O Open Programmable Secure 5G (OPS-5G) program.
The below schedule of milestones and deliverables is provided to establish expectations and desired results/end products for the Phase II effort.
Schedule/Milestones/Deliverables During Phase II proposers will execute the Research and Development (R&D) plan as described in the proposal.
Proposers will also complete a commercialization plan that addresses relevant costs of materials, potential material and equipment suppliers, market opportunity and anticipated positioning, and unique intellectual property.
- Month 1: Phase II Kickoff briefing (with annotated slides) to the DARPA PM (in-person or virtual, as needed) including: any updates to the proposed plan and technical approach, risks/mitigations, schedule (inclusive of dependencies) with planned capability milestones and deliverables, proposed metrics, and plan for prototype demonstration/validation.
- Months 4, 7, 10: Quarterly technical progress reports detailing technical progress made, tasks accomplished, major risks/mitigations, a technical plan for the remainder of Phase II (while this will normally report progress against the plan detailed in the proposal or presented at the Kickoff briefing, it is understood that scientific discoveries, competition, and regulatory changes may all have impacts on the planned work and DARPA must be made aware of any revisions that result), planned activities, trip summaries, and any potential issues or problem areas that require the attention of the DARPA PM.
- Month 12 Interim technical progress briefing (with annotated slides) to the DARPA PM (in-person or virtual as needed) detailing progress made (include quantitative assessment of capability developed to date), tasks accomplished, major risks/mitigations, planned activities and technical plan for second half of Phase II, the demonstration/verification plan for the end of Phase II, trip summaries, and any potential issues or problem areas that require the attention of the DARPA PM.
- Month 15, 18, 21: Quarterly technical progress reports detailing technical progress made, tasks accomplished, major risks/mitigations, a technical plan for the remainder of Phase II (with necessary updates as in the parenthetical remark for Months 4, 7, and 10), planned activities, trip summaries, and any potential issues or problem areas that require the attention of the DARPA PM.
- Month 24/Final Phase II Deliverables: security architecture with documented key management details, demonstrating secure communications amongst multiple independent and overlapping subgroups; documented application programming interfaces; any other necessary documentation (including, at a minimum, user manuals and a detailed system design document; and the end of phase commercialization plan).
The Phase III work will be oriented towards transition and commercialization of the developed security technology. The proposer is required to obtain funding from either the private sector, a non-SBIR Government source, or both, to develop the prototype software into a viable product or non-R&D service for sale in military or private sector markets. Phase III refers to work that derives from, extends, or completes an effort made under prior SBIR funding agreements, but is funded by sources other than the SBIR Program.
Primary CHARIOT support will be to national efforts to develop approaches to protect network infrastructure and technologies (e.g., 5G). Outcomes have the potential to significantly benefit the DoD and numerous commercial entities by providing protected and resilient capabilities. Specifically, in the commercial space, CHARIOT security technologies have applications to companies that develop digital entities (e.g., networks, clouds, devices participating in the IoT, etc.); in the DoD space, CHARIOT security technologies have value to all Service Components due to the widespread use and migration to such digital entities to support mission operations.
KEYWORDS: Internet of Things (IoT), Key Management, Post-quantum Security, 5G-connected Devices, Secure Digital Engagement, Zero-trust Architectures, System Cryptography
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