In This Issue
Biotechnology Revolution
September 1, 2004 Volume 34 Issue 3

Biotechnology Enablers for the Soldier System of Systems

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Author: Lester Martinez-Lopez

Biotechnology-based strategies are key to transforming a soldier into a Soldier System of Systems.

The Army has historically recognized that the individual soldier, the critical element of operational success, is an integral component of weapons, transportation, and other hardware systems and that military hardware (and software) must be designed with human factors in mind. Today, we think of the soldier as a system; taken together with his or her equipment, the soldier is a system of systems. This more holistic approach encompasses not only the human-system interface, but also the full range of biological, environmental, and occupational factors that can affect a soldier’s health and performance. Soldiers today face more environments and threats than the soldiers of yesteryear, and we anticipate that the challenges will continue to increase. To maximize a soldier’s performance and prevent disease and injury in this changing operational setting, the U.S. Army is pursuing research, development, and engineering to transform the individual soldier into a fully protected and integrated Soldier System of Systems. Biotechnology-based strategies are key to achieving this goal.

Soldiering remains a dangerous business, involving a wide variety of threats to health and performance. To protect the soldier, we must counter traditional threats from ballistics weapons, as well as from chemical and biological weapons. However, we often overlook the fact that the majority of casualties have historically resulted not from enemy weapons, but from diseases (especially infectious diseases), non-battle-related injuries, and stress. For example, in the Vietnam War, 83 percent of all hospital admissions were for disease and non-battle injuries. A traditional rule of thumb is that there is one combat-stress casualty for every three physical casualties.

It is also important to recognize the unique features of the military environment that adversely affect human performance without directly causing casualties. If performance degradation is severe enough, however, missions can be compromised, which can lead to serious consequences, including casualties. The soldier’s occupational environment is extremely stressful, both physically and mentally. Work is conducted outdoors in all types of weather and at all altitudes. The workload continues around the clock and is subject to sudden, rapid changes in intensity. Soldiers are required to remain attentive and vigilant and process increasing amounts of information very quickly.

In the future, even greater demands will be made upon soldiers. Future operational concepts call for highly mobile forces enabled by increasingly sophisticated weapon and information systems. Currently, the military must be able to deploy one division (10,000 to 18,000 troops) into an operational theater on 120 hours notice and five divisions within 30 days. The soldier of the future must be physically ready to deploy on a moment’s notice; upon arrival, he or she must be ready to fight, anywhere in the world. Soldiers may also be required to change rapidly from humanitarian to peacekeeping to warfighting roles (as in Iraq). These requirements will make substantial cognitive, perceptual, and emotional demands on soldiers. Highly mobile operations will also increase the dispersion and isolation of small units and individual soldiers, changing the way support services, such as medical support, are delivered and making it imperative that soldiers remain fit and healthy. Future soldiers will have to be capable of going without sleep or resupply for extended periods of time and more reliant on self- or buddy-aid in the event of illness or injury.

The Soldier System of Systems
The Soldier System of Systems is a multi-tiered strategy in which the soldier and his or her weapon and support systems are considered as a unified system that encompasses the full range of medical and nonmedical systems for protecting and enhancing the soldier’s health and performance. This strategy consists of three levels of defense: Protection; Surveillance; and Intervention. Protection is subdivided into the three categories: Individual Force Health Protection; Individual Force Protection; and Force Protection.

Role of Biotechnology
The key to realizing the Soldier System of Systems is biotechnology. In 2001, the U.S. Army commissioned a National Research Council (NRC) committee, the Committee on Opportunities in Biotechnology for Future Army Applications, chaired by NAE member Michael R. Ladisch of Purdue University, to accomplish the following goals:

  • Examine trends in the bioscience and engineering industries, including small business involvement and university and other institutional research activities in biology, biomimetics, and related areas.
  • Determine whether trends in research, technology transfer, and commercialization could be used to predict advances likely to be useful for the Army through 2025.
  • Identify the bioscience and engineering technologies with the most potential for Army applications, based on affordability and the likelihood of leveraging commercial research and development.
  • Identify critical barriers to the development of biotechnologies with strong potential for Army applications, especially barriers that could be surmounted by appropriate investments in science and technology.
  • Recommend research initiatives that could help the Army exploit promising developments in biotechnologies and engineering.
  • The results of the NRC study published in 2003 identified 20 prospective applications for Army investment over the short term, midterm, and long term.

Biotechnology in the Army
Based on the recommendations of the NRC Committee and internal assessments of technology readiness and soldiers’ needs, the Army is currently investing in several broad areas that cut across multiple technology applications. The Army’s intramural biotechnology effort is being conducted at facilities that fall under the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC) and the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM). USAMRMC focuses on medical and human performance applications; RDECOM focuses on nonmedical systems applications. Extramural basic research is being coordinated by the Army Research Office (ARO), based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. ARO oversees two major collaborative ventures with academia that are focused on biotechnology enablers: the Institute of Collaborative Biotechnologies, which includes the University of California at Santa Barbara, California Institute of Technology, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to provide the Army with core competencies and expertise; and the Institute of Nanotechnologies, a $50-million research collaboration between the Army and MIT. The remainder of this article highlights examples of biotechnology-based systems being developed for the Soldier System of Systems.

Vaccine-Based Protection against Endemic Diseases and Biological Agents
Current efforts to develop improved vaccines for Individual Force Health Protection are focused on molecular recognition and vaccine design and construction. In addition to potentially protecting against diseases for which little or no protection is currently available, molecular biology-based vaccines are expected to avoid causing some of the side effects commonly associated with traditional vaccines, which are based on whole killed or attenuated live organisms. DNA-based vaccines are being developed by the U.S. Army for several diseases, including dengue fever, malaria, and Hantaan virus, and for biowarfare agents, including anthrax, botulinum neurotoxins C through G, and staphylococcal enterotoxins A and B. Genetic and genomic technologies have shifted research and development efforts away from whole pathogens to specific viral or bacterial components that confer long-term immunity in those who survive infection. Army-sponsored vaccine research is currently being conducted at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), and the U.S. Naval Medical Research Center (USNMRC).

As an example of the current state of the art, DNA vaccines are being developed at USAMRIID to protect against hantaviruses, which cause hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) or hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). Both HFRS and HPS are acute febrile illnesses that are lethal in 5 to 15 percent and 40 to 50 percent of victims, respectively. DNA sequences that code for specific hantavirus genes have been inserted into nonpathogenic viral vectors, precipitated onto gold microbeads, and injected into the skin of test animals with a needleless gene gun (Hooper et al., 2001). Hamsters injected with the vaccine were protected against challenge infection, and rhesus monkeys produced antibodies that neutralized virus particles. Hamsters injected with monkey serum as much as five days after viral challenge were protected from developing HPS (Custer et al., 2003).

Existing methodologies are continually being refined for more rapid identification of the immune-response-producing components of pathogens, the isolation of genes that code for these components, and large-quantity production of component-coding genes. Rapidly formulated DNA vaccines that are effective against multiple strains of the same organism or combinations of multiple organisms can render the soldier of the future resilient against threats posed by emerging diseases and genetically engineered biowarfare agents.

Drug-Based Protection against Endemic Diseases and Biological Threat Agents
Non-vaccine-based efforts in Individual Force Health Protection are based on molecular recognition and drug design and testing. The Army is currently focusing on preventive and therapeutic drugs for malaria, a disease for which vaccine-based approaches have not been effective. To ensure that the Soldier System of Systems includes protection against this common tropical disease, the Army is pursuing both vaccine-based and non-vaccine-based strategies. The recent completion of the malaria parasite genome sequence (Gardner et al., 2002) has opened the search to the full spectrum of gene-based drug discovery, coupled with more conventional biotechnological, pharmacological, and medicinal methods of drug optimization.

Drugs could also be potentially tailored to specific subpopulations to improve safety and increase effectiveness. When a large number of individuals receive identical doses of the same drug, their responses and side effects vary greatly. These differences are attributed to presumed variabilities in drug-metabolizing enzymes, receptor subtypes, and other genetic factors. Pharmacogenomic and toxicogenomic profiling can facilitate the identification of subpopulations of individuals for whom a given drug is less effective or more toxic. In some cases, differences may be correctable by introducing minor changes into the chemical structure of the drug.

Monitoring of Physiological Status
To further Surveillance and Intervention through the identification of impending degradations in physical or cognitive performance and improved casualty assessment, the Army is investing in molecular recognition technologies. Current prototypes of monitoring systems of physiological status are based on electrical or mechanical sensing of measures of physical activity, heart rate, temperature, and other parameters. A goal for the future is the detection of biomolecules in perspiration or other accessible body fluids that correlate with a soldier’s potential to execute a mission. This could be accomplished through biosensors for physiological surveillance or casualty diagnosis integrated into soldier ensembles.

At present, little is known about which, if any, secreted biomolecules are appropriate for sensing. The molecules being investigated include proteins, such as growth factors, metabolites, such as glucose or lactate, and stress hormones, such as cortisol. With proteomics, researchers can profile the expression of all proteins in a tissue and identify patterns and relationships among them under specific performance environments.
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Novel approaches are being considered for preventing
environmental injuries
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Investigators at the Natick Soldier Center are attempting to identify performance-relevant markers and develop additional types of biosensors. An example of the latter is a project at Georgetown University, cosponsored by the Army and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, that has resulted in the development of a biofluidic chip that extracts molecules, such as glucose, that do not usually diffuse across skin, from subepidermal interstitial fluid.

Protection against Environmental Injury
As part of Individual Force Health Protection and Intervention, genomic detection and drug design and testing technologies are being pursued for protection against environmental injuries. Genomic methodologies are being used to identify molecular regulators that enhance a soldier’s adaptation to environmental stressors, such as extreme heat, cold, and altitude, and biomarkers that predict increased or decreased susceptibility to environmental injuries. Investigators at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine have characterized gene-expression patterns in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) isolated from soldiers who exhibit signs and symptoms of exertional heat injury (Sonna et al., 2004), as well as PBMCs isolated from health volunteers and then exposed to heat or cold under controlled conditions in the laboratory (Sonna et al., 2002a,b). They have also characterized changes in cultured human liver cells exposed to low oxygen tensions to mimick high altitude (Sonna et al., 2003). More than 50 proteins are affected by heat stress; fewer than 20 are affected by cold; and more than 380 are affected by hypoxia. Novel approaches being considered for preventing environmental injuries include nutritional supplements and smart suits with sensing capabilities.

Host-Based Detection and Diagnosis of Exposure to Chemical and Biological Hazards
Army investment in genomic detection, molecular recognition, and molecular toxicology is funding the development of host-based detection systems in support of Individual Force Health Protection and Surveillance. A fundamental concept in toxicology is the dose-toxicity relationship, in which the adverse effects elicited by a toxic substance are dependent on the level of exposure to the toxic substance. Exposure levels too low to cause outwardly observable changes in health often cause changes at the molecular level. By detecting molecular changes in the soldier before observable signs and symptoms of toxicity appear, it becomes possible to prevent further exposure and initiate a protective or intervention-based strategy to avert or ameliorate adverse events.

DNA microarray technology is being used at the U.S. Army Center for Environmental Health Research, the Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center (ECBC), and WRAIR to identify genetic markers of response to different classes of toxic hazards and long-term changes in gene expression following asymptomatic, low-level exposures to chemical warfare agents. An interesting finding is that male and female rats show different alterations in gene expression following whole-body inhalational exposures to low doses of sarin vapor (Sekowski et al., 2002).

DNA microarray technology is also being used at USAMRIID and WRAIR to assess immune system responses to a variety of biological agents. The expression patterns of isolated PBMCs exposed to biological agents in the laboratory setting support discrimination of agents that include bacteria (e.g., anthrax, plague, and brucella), toxins (e.g., staphylococcal enterotoxin B, cholera toxin, and botulinum neurotoxin A), and viruses (e.g., Venezuelan equine encephalitis and dengue fever) (Das et al., 2002). Furthermore, PBMCs isolated from nonhuman primates exposed to anthrax in vivo reveal patterns of gene expression that correlate with the impending onset of symptoms. The latter approach could be beneficial for detecting exposures to genetically modified organisms that cannot be detected by pathogen-based methods.

Hazard-Based Detection and Diagnosis of Exposure to Biological Hazards
Another element of Individual Force Health Protection and Surveillance is the combination of molecular recognition and bioderived electronic and photonic materials to detect pathogenic organisms in the environment. Investigators at the Natick Soldier Center are leveraging the electrical conduction and optical properties of polymers that have been complexed with single-stranded DNA or RNA to form sensitive gene chip biosensors. When the nucleic acid of a pathogenic organism hybridizes to a complexed nucleic acid probe, the properties of the polymers change. Investigators are also developing peptide-based receptors that bind selectively to pathogenic bacteria. Investigators at ECBC are working on peptide-based receptors that bind toxins, such as ricin and staphylococcal enterotoxin B, and on designing and fabricating a DNA/RNA microarray capable of detecting and identifying pathogens down to the level of different strains. These technologies can also be used for monitoring food and water for contamination.

Catalytic Inactivation of Toxic Agents
Individual Force Health Protection, Individual Force Protection, and Force Protection are being addressed through investment in catalytic enzymes and drug design and testing to protect against toxic chemical and biological agents. At the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, bioengineered recombinant butyrylcholinesterase is being investigated for use as prophylaxis against the adverse effects of exposure to nerve agents, such as sarin, soman, tabun, and VX. This enzyme mimics acetylcholinesterase and competes with it for binding nerve agents, thus reducing the level of acetylcholinesterase inactivation. It is anticipated that a single dose of this enzyme will be capable of scavenging nerve agent through stoichiometric binding for up to eight hours. Current efforts are directed at engineering the enzyme so that it has catalytic activity in vivo and exploring the use of a transgenic goat model for generating sufficient quantities of engineered enzyme to conduct clinical trials.

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Enzymes for hydrolyzing G-type and V-type nerve agents
have been identified, cloned, and optimized.
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At ECBC, recombinant enzymes are being incorporated into fabrics and polyurethane foams for nonmedical protection and into sprays, detergents, degreasers, and other matrices for decontamination following exposure. Enzymes for hydrolyzing G-type and V-type nerve agents have been identified, cloned, and optimized. Organophosphorus acid anhydrolase, which works against the G agents sarin, soman, and tabun, is in large-scale process development. Random and site-directed mutagenesis has resulted in variants of organophosphorus hydrolase enzyme with increased activity against the V-type agent VX. Organophosphorus hydrolase is also currently in process development. In addition, a bacterial enzyme has been identified that hydrolyzes sulfur mustard, and a collaborative project is under way with Rockefeller University to assess the effectiveness of using bacteriophage lysins to destroy anthrax spores (Schuch et al., 2002).

Biomembrane and Fiber Generation
The Army is investing in bioderived materials and molecular recognition as part of Individual Force Protection, Force Protection, and Intervention. A process called electrospinning is being used at the Natick Soldier Center to produce high-surface-area nanofiber membranes with unique reactive sites for selective immobilization of biological recognition elements. The current focus is on including immobilized antibodies and antimicrobial peptides on electrospun nanofibrous poly(epsilon-caprolactone) (PCL) for selective binding to pathogens. These materials can be used in the development of clothing-based biosensors and in filtration of pathogens from food, water, and clothing. Other electrospun polymeric materials include polyurethanes and polyvinyl chloride.

Biomembranes and fibers are also being investigated at the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies. There, electrospun polymers are being used as extracellular matrix-mimicking scaffolds to support tissue regeneration and as vehicles for delivering drugs and biologics that promote tissue healing after injury.

Protection against Ballistics
Hard and lightweight ceramic materials, such as boron carbide, are incorporated into body armor and other forms of protective shielding. Research is now focusing on bioderived nanoceramics in support of Individual Force Protection and Force Protection.

In nature, organisms can form ceramics under mild conditions using protein-directed templated crystallization mechanisms. Identifying novel peptides that control inorganic ceramic architecture is a technical challenge being addressed at the Natick Soldier Center. Based on our current understanding of how nature nucleates inorganic nanocrystallization, researchers are attempting to use biomimetic approaches to create novel materials not found in nature. For example, the proteins that direct crystallization for generation of sea urchin spicules are being genetically modified to favor ions, such as boron and aluminum, rather than the naturally incorporated ions of calcium and silica.

Systems Engineering Issues
A key challenge to realizing the Soldier System of Systems is to provide a comprehensive range of capabilities while simultaneously meeting stringent military requirements to minimize weight and power consumption. Today’s soldiers may carry as much as 100 pounds of equipment. In keeping with requirements for increased mobility, the objective is to reduce the effective load to less than 40 pounds by developing efficient multifunctional systems for the Soldier System of Systems. Examples include a single system for detecting exposures to chemical warfare agents, toxic environmental chemicals, biowarfare agents, and/or infectious pathogens and a single vaccine system for protecting against multiple pathogenic organisms.

The problem is complicated because of potential interactions among drugs and vaccines that can decrease their effectiveness or increase their toxicity. Another concern about biologically based systems is their stability and durability. Many biological molecules are susceptible to degradation, and it remains to be seen whether bio-based materials and sensors will be able to perform well under rugged field conditions in which they are exposed to extremes of temperature and humidity, the possibility of oxidation, and other stresses. Biomaterials must also have a reasonably long shelf-life, because perishable materials could be logistically insupportable or unaffordable if stockpiles must be frequently refreshed.

Other major challenges to realizing the Soldier System of Systems are gaps in our knowledge. Despite substantial progress in the enabling technologies for engineering sensors and DNA vaccines, questions remain about which biomolecules are appropriate for sensing and why some vaccines fail to elicit a protective response. We will certainly need more basic research on enabling technologies and their applications.

By continually monitoring progress in basic and applied research in the academic, governmental, and industrial communities, the Army can hope to fill these knowledge gaps, identify the most promising enabling technologies, and promote their development by carefully directing its investments.

Custer, D.M., E. Thompson, C.S. Schmaljohn, T.G. Ksiazek, and J.W. Hooper. 2003. Active and passive vaccination against Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome with Andes virus M genome segment-based DNA vaccine. Journal of Virology 77: 9894–9905.
Das, R., R. Neill, G.V. Ludwig, P. Ramamoorthy, R. Hammamieh, A. Dhokalia, S. Mani, C. Mendis, C. Cummings, B. Kearney, A. Royaee, R.-A. Huang, C. Paranavitana, M. Jensen, L. Smith, N. Kanesa-Thasan, D. Hoover, L.E. Lindler, D. Yang, E. Henchal, and M. Jett. 2002. Host gene expression profiles in peripheral blood mononuclear cells: detection of exposure to biological threat agents. 23rd Army Science Conference, December 2–5, 2002, Orlando, Florida. Available online at:
Gardner, M.J., N. Hall, E. Fung, O. White, M. Berriman, R.W. Hyman, J.M. Carlton, A. Pain, K.E. Nelson, S. Bowman, I.T. Paulsen, K. James, J.A. Eisen, K. Rutherford, S.L. Salzberg, A. Craig, S. Kyes, M.S. Chan, V. Nene, S.J. Shallom, B. Suh, J. Peterson, S. Angiuoli, M. Pertea, J. Allen, J. Selengut, D. Haft, M.W. Mather, A.B. Vaidya, D.M. Martin, A.H. Fairlamb, M.J. Fraunholz, D.S. Roos, S.A. Ralph, G.I. McFadden, L.M. Cummings, G.M. Subramanian, C. Mungall, J.C. Venter, D.J. Carucci, S.L. Hoffman, C. Newbold, R.W. Davis, C.M. Fraser, and B. Barrell. 2002. Genome sequence of the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Nature 419(6906): 498–511.
Hooper, J.W., D.M. Custer, E. Thompson, and C.S. Schmaljohn. 2001. DNA vaccination with the Hantaan virus M gene protects hamsters against three of four HFRS Hantaviruses and elicits a high-titer neutralizing antibody response in rhesus monkeys. Journal of Virology 75(18): 8469–8477.
NRC (National Research Council). 2003. Opportunities in Biotechnology for Future Army Applications. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.
Schuch, R., D. Nelson, and V.A. Fischetti. 2002. A bacteriolytic agent that detects and kills Bacillus anthracis. Nature 418(6900): 884–889.
Sekowski, J.W., J. Bucher, D. Menking, J.J. Valdes, R. Mioduszewski, S. Thomson, C. Whalley, M. Vahey, and
M. Nau. 2002. Gene expression changes following low level exposure to sarin vapor. 23rd Army Science Conference, December 2–5, 2002, Orlando, Florida. Available online at
Sonna, L.A., M.L. Cullivan, H.K. Sheldon, R.E. Pratt, and C.M. Lilly. 2003. Effect of hypoxia on gene expression by human hepatocytes (HepG2). Physiologic Genomics 12(3): 195–207.
Sonna, L.A., J. Fujita, S.L. Gaffin, and C.M. Lilly. 2002a. Invited review: effects of heat and cold stress on mammalian gene expression. Journal of Applied Physiology 92(4): 1725–1742.
Sonna, L.A., S.L. Gaffin, R.E. Pratt, M.L. Cullivan, K.C. Angel, and C.M. Lilly. 2002b. Effect of acute heat shock on gene expression by human peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Journal of Applied Physiology 92(5): 2208–2220.
Sonna, L.A., C.B. Wenger, S. Flinn, H.K. Sheldon, M.N. Sawka, and C.M. Lilly. 2004. Exertional heat injury and gene expression changes: a DNA microarray analysis study. Journal of Applied Physiology 96(5): 1943–1953.

Level of Defense


Individual Force Health Protection
Physiologically based systems and practices to make the soldier more intrinsically resilient. Examples include medical technologies that improve the fitness and stress resistance of the individual soldier in the face of occupational and operational stresses and environmental hazards, as well as medical technologies, such as vaccines, drugs, and early diagnostics, that can protect against biological and chemical warfare agents and endemic infectious diseases.

Individual Force Protection
Individual systems worn by the soldier, including armor systems to protect against ballistic and blast injuries, physical protection against chemical and biological weapons, and integrated thermal-control systems, and biological and physiological sensors to monitor individual health and performance capability.

Force Protection
Larger scale protective systems, including early-warning systems, vehicle armor, active protection, and signature reduction and evasion technologies to protect against large-scale munitions; and collective (group-level) protection against chemical and biological warfare agents.

Unit- and theater-level systems that provide early warning to avoid injury and/or limit the spread of disease.

Casualty-care systems to improve survival in the event of injury and reduce levels of short- and long-term disability.


TABLE 1 Biotechnology Applications for Investment by the Army

Camouflage and concealment using biomaterials with stealth characteristics and nonilluminating paints and coatings

Combat identification via biological markers that can distinguish friendly soldiers

Computing with DNA computers that can solve special problems and biological models that lead to new algorithms

Data fusion using protein-based devices and artificial intelligence technologies

Functional foods, such as edible vaccines and food additives, that can lead to improved nutrition and digestion or aid in battlefield identification

Health monitoring via devices that provide feedback on soldier status, enable remote triage, and provide intelligence on chemical and biological warfare agents

High-capacity data storage using individual soldier-based computers with rugged memories

High-resolution imaging to replace semiconductor-based imagers

Lightweight armor for ballistics protection constructed from biopolymers and bioceramics

Novel materials inspired by natural products and modified by genetic engineering, including biodegradable consumables and renewable resources

Performance enhancement through drugs, cortical implants, and sensory enhancement

Radiation-resistant electronics including protein-based components and biomolecular hybrid devices

Reductions in size and weight brought about by cell-based processes, molecular electronics, biochips, and nanotechnology

Sensing of battlefield environments by laboratories-on-a-chip that can detect and identify chemical and biological threats

Sensor networks that include remote sensors mounted on vehicles and carried by soldiers to augment threat intelligence

Soldier therapeutics that are targeted and genomics-based, including therapeutics that can counteract shock and optimize responsiveness to vaccines

Soldier-portable power generated by cell-based energy systems

Target recognition using protein-based devices for pattern recognition and artificial intelligence

Vaccine development that is more rapid and can meet small-scale requirements for diseases encountered in exotic locales

Wound healing aided by engineered skin, tissue, and organs along with dressings and treatments that curtail bleeding and accelerate healing

Source: NRC, 2003.

TABLE 2 Current Biotechnology Focus Areas

Genomic detection, patterns of gene expression that can be used as diagnostics and prognostics, as well as guides to improving preventive medicine and enhancing performance

Molecular recognition, generation of oligonucleotide probes, peptide libraries, and monoclonal antibodies as potential recognition elements for sensor systems

Vaccine design and construction, DNA-based approaches to vaccine design and needleless delivery systems

Drug design and testing, functional studies and genomic and proteomic approaches to identifying novel targets

Catalytic enzymes, recombinant and engineered enzymes for medical prophylaxis, physical protection, and small- and large-scale decontamination

Molecular toxicology, mechanisms of toxicity at the cellular, proteomic, and genetic levels—cytosensor microphysiometer studies for determining effects of nerve agents on human cells; fingerprints of toxic exposures

Bioderived electronic and photonic materials, soluble, conducting, and optically active polymers for biosensors, lightweight power sources, electromagnetic interference shielding, stealthy fabrics, and coatings that protect against corrosion

Bioderived nanoceramics, replications and modifications of the mechanisms for synthesizing ceramic materials in nature

Source: NRC, 2003.

Enzymes for hydrolyzing G-type and V-type nerve agents have been identified, cloned, and optimized.

About the Author:Major General Lester Martinez-Lopez, M.D., M.P.H., is the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command.