Applied DNA enlists with Army’s bio-warfare defenders

Testing, testing: U.S. Army scientists busy at work at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, the nation's best defense against chemical and biological warfare.

Applied DNA Sciences is in the Army now.

Already under U.S. Department of Defense contract on a number of different projects, the Stony Brook-based biotech has entered into a new Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center.

Best known as a developer and distributor of in-house botanical-DNA-based security and authentication protocols, Applied DNA is lending its expertise in a slightly different capacity this time: Its science teams will study the potential commercialization of somebody else’s technology, specifically the ECBC’s innovative “DNA microarray.”

Functioning primarily as the nation’s principal R&D resource for non-medical chemical and biological defense, the ECBC has developed an in-field DNA-based tracking system that could soon emerge as an impenetrable safeguard for both military and commercial supply chains – precisely the direction Applied DNA wants to evolve its own authentication technologies, according to President and CEO James Hayward.

“Rapid, hand-held DNA detection has long been a goal of ours and is essential to the long-term growth of our technology platform,” Hayward said Tuesday.

The company is therefore “honored” to enlist with the Army and to study the ECBC tech “as a complement to our DNA authentication products,” the CEO added, noting the DNA microarray breaks new ground by being “capable of rapid detection anywhere, anytime, for global supply chains.”

The Cooperative Research and Development Agreement is part of the Defense Logistics Agency Rapid Innovation Fund award secured by Applied DNA in June. Under the terms of the CRADA, Applied DNA researchers will work with ECBC experts to cooperatively study the feasibility of applying ECBC’s microarray technology to “varied supply chains.”

James Hayward: Just what he had in mind.

The handheld microarray allows for detection of DNA tags “within a few minutes,” according to Applied DNA. The project will demonstrate the system using Applied DNA’s proprietary DNA taggants, which will be introduced to standard inks and varnishes and various surfaces – no “amplification” or other prep work required, according to the company, “greatly simplifying in-field DNA detection.”

The project is a golden opportunity for the Stony Brook biotech. The Edgewood Chemical Biological Center – which facilitates hundreds of top engineers, technicians and other science specialists at sites in Maryland, Arkansas, Illinois and Utah – offers what Applied DNA called “an unrivaled chemical-biological research-and-development infrastructure.”

The ECBC’s unique focus – protecting warfighters, first responders and citizens from chemical and biological warfare agents – creates “a unique role in technology development that cannot be duplicated by private industry or research universities,” Applied DNA added.

Not a bad partner for a biotech with a unique authentication platform and universal aspirations, according to Hayward, who noted Applied DNA’s “continued efforts to commercialize technologies made available under our ongoing DoD contracts.”

“This mutually beneficial cooperative research-and-development project parallels our ongoing partnership with several Department of Defense agencies,” the CEO said. “We believe the ECBC’s technology is extremely promising and are excited to work alongside it on this next-generation data capture.”

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