The U.S. Army and The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory will create and operate a national biotechnology center of excellence focusing some of the nation's top minds and research facilities on several critical Army needs.
On April 17 at APL the heads of U.S. Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command, known as SBCCOM; the university; and APL signed a memorandum of understanding to establish the Army Center of Excellence in Biotechnology. APL will manage the center, which will ultimately team Army agencies, universities and private companies in projects to research, develop, test and deliver innovative biotechnologies, and provide related education and training to Army leaders.
"The Army will rely on biotechnologies not just to counter chemical and biological threats but to enhance soldier performance, sustainability and survivability through better materials, food, nutrition and support systems," said Maj. Gen. John C. Doesburg, commander of SBCCOM, headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. "The Johns Hopkins Institutions have world-class technology, people and facilities. We expect the products that result from these partnerships will protect our forces and contribute greatly to military readiness and national security."
Over the next year APL and the Army will determine the center's location, organization, initial research areas and participants. Such a center could provide advances in materials science, bioinformatics, nanoscience, genomics and metabolic engineering--potentially leading to new defenses against weapons of mass destruction, better pharmaceuticals and nutritional supplements, lighter and tougher protective materials, improved medical diagnostics, more environmentally sound manufacturing processes and other bio-breakthroughs.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for the Applied Physics Laboratory and the Army to work together on a range of mission-critical requirements, from biotechnology research to biomedicine and biotechnology-based sensors, system design and analysis," said Richard T. Roca, director of APL. "The combination of public and private resources will also help train scientists and engineers and expand the biotechnology production base, ultimately benefiting the entire nation."
In addition to SBCCOM organizations and the Johns Hopkins schools of Medicine, Public Health, Nursing, Engineering and Arts and Sciences, the center counts the University of Maryland among its charter members, and it expects to bring in other academic institutions and participants from the nation's rapidly growing biotechnology industry.
Hopkins President William R. Brody said, "Through research and development and as a trusted adviser, Johns Hopkins can contribute significantly to the Army's ability to achieve its mission while developing commercial applications and recruiting partners from academia and industry."
SBCCOM is the Army's center of expertise in chemical and biological defense technology, and its Soldier Systems Center, in Natick, Mass., is the Army center of expertise for food and nutrition. SBCCOM possesses the majority of the Defense Department's biotechnology assets, including the Process Engineering Facility, a complete scale-up biomanufacturing plant. The command works closely with the Army Research Lab and the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command at Fort Detrick, Md., which possess significant biomedical science and engineering capabilities.