CBD S&T Conference

2019 Session Descriptions

Approaches to Characterizing Large-Scale Chemical and Biological Releases

DTRA Session Chair: Mr. Bruce Hinds

This session will be focused on the technologies involved in tracking and measuring large-scale chemical releases in environmental, industrial, and military settings. One area of particular interest relates to the quantification and analysis of chemical plumes using stand-off detection techniques (hyperspectral imaging, FTIR, LIDAR, etc.) along with point detectors to determine concentrations, vasol mixtures within the plume, and other factors important to emergency management. Another area of interest are the advances in the instrumentation relating to the measurement of plume dynamics and its evolution over time in open environments. A third area involves the techniques that are used to validate computational models using experimental data obtained from Stand-off and point detectors. This session will provide greater insight into the current developments for comprehensive understanding of chemical releases and associated effects at varied temporal and spatial resolutions.

Approaches to Characterizing the Threat from Chemical and Biological Agents

DTRA Session Chairs: Dr. Donald Cronce, Ms. Sara Peacock-Clark and Dr. Kristen O’Connor

Battlefields are not sterile environments. In practice, each battlefield is, among other things, a unique, extraordinarily complex chemical environment. Through interactions with operational substrates, contaminants, and pollutants, or through nefarious intent, the operating environment is a mélange of chemicals. For example, operational bases employ a multitude of chemicals every day; fuels, lubricants, solvents, paints, pesticides, coatings, etc. In the event of a chemical attack, dissemination methods will contribute their own complexities through the use of an energetic or diluent/dilutant in addition to the agent. This area requires examination, as most laboratory studies of CWAs focus on neat compounds. This topic focuses on the unique implications of mixtures or impure agents on detection, protection, mitigation, remediation, and countermeasures. How do we minimize the impact that the introduction of these mixtures has on personnel, equipment, and operations? The Joint Science and Technology Office's (JSTO) goal is to work with the wider scientific community to leverage techniques and tools to assess hazards of chemical mixtures or impure agents. Our interests include, but are not limited to:

  • Tools and techniques in use for non-experimentally characterizing hazardous properties of mixtures (e.g., modeling and computational capabilities)
  • Current efforts underway for developing predictive tools and techniques
  • Other relevant approaches for characterizing hazardous properties of chemical mixtures or impure chemicals

DTRA Session Chairs: Dr. Morgan Minyard and Dr. Revell Phillips

Organoids and organ-on-a-chip technologies are projected to change the face of medicine and drug development. These in vitro systems provide the ability to mimic human physiological responses and provide cellular level analysis not available through traditional animal models. The use of humanized cells also offers promise in better understanding how a given drug, chemical, toxin or pathogen affects humans in ways that cannot be captured in animal models due to species differences. These technologies are poised to become a valid method for predicting human responses to hazardous chemicals, toxins, and pathogens. Advances in these technologies likely will aid in several areas of concern to The Joint Science and Technology Office (JSTO) including predicting human toxicity and understanding medical countermeasure efficacy and safety. JSTO's goal is to work with the greater scientific community to evaluate the full breadth of these novel technologies so we can better protect the Warfighter. Presentations can include but are not limited to information on:

  • Ability to characterize the toxicity of hazardous chemical and pathogens
  • Providing molecular modes of actions
  • Studies toward understanding countermeasure efficacy and safety
  • Advances in organoid or organ-on-a-chip technologies

Developing Medical Countermeasures Against Biological Threats

DTRA Session Chair: MAJ Jeff Froude

Antibody-based therapeutics represent the fastest growing class of biological therapeutics. Novel and next-generation medical countermeasures (MCMs) may require production of this class of molecules into new formats that are able to enhance efficacy and/or pharmacokinetic effects. These molecule modifications should focus on mechanisms of antibody influence and entry into the appropriate site of action, optimization of delivery strategies and modifications to improve the overall potency of these molecules.

Some of the specific areas we are interested in include, but are not limited to:

  • Current approaches and future trends in Antibody discovery to infectious disease - Does the origin of the biologic molecule impact the effect?
  • Fc-Effector function modification - Impacts of the role of isotype and glycosylation which can enhance efficacy or eliminate undesirable immune effects.
  • Bi-Specific formats for improving pharmacokinetics, tissue compartmental access, or multi-agent targeting - Challenges and opportunities for developing biologics to multiple targets.
  • Nucleic acid launched biologics – Opportunities and challenges of biologic and antibody delivery based on nucleic acid delivery systems.
  • Frontiers in novel biologic modalities - intrabodies, transbodies and affinity switching. What is the next generation of biologics and their utility against agents of CBDP concern?
  • Arming your antibodies – Antibody Drug Conjugates (ADCs) and other methodologies to enhance the impact of antibody mechanisms of action

DTRA Session Chair: Dr. Jay Vasudevan

As the CBDP continues to invest in pathogen directed therapies that are in development, there is interest in approaching the challenge through additional approaches to mitigate disease progression. Past investments in these approaches have not yielded the success expected.

This session will focus on looking at technologies that show promise in defeating pathogen replication OR progression of disease by targeting host factors. The intent is to look at leveraging our improved understanding of pathogen replications and disease progression to look at new approaches to managing the risk of BW exposure.

The approaches being considered (but NOT limited to) are host factors enabling:

  • Pathogen entry
  • Pathogen replication
  • Pathogen egress
  • Host disease processes
  • Common pathways of end state disease
  • Host immune modifiers

DTRA Session Co-Chairs: Dr. Amanda Smith and Dr. Julie Boylan

The future biological threat environment will be increasingly complex and technological surprise will be encountered. Medical countermeasures (MCMs) designed to protect against biological threats are being developed at a more rapid rate and for lower costs than previously seen. A large part of this is due to efficiencies gained from platform technologies that streamline biomedical product development, thereby reducing cost and schedule risks. At the same time, the Warfighter mission in becoming more complex and the breadth of BW agents encountered is broader. However, first-generation prophylactic and therapeutic medical countermeasures, when used as the sole medical intervention, rarely meet all efficacy requirements in biodefense settings. Nonetheless, these first-generation MCMs do have some level of efficacy and possibly when used in conjunction or layered over time, may prove, in total, efficacious, and even permit a return on decades of discovery research invested. Combining MCMs, though, is not a trivial exercise and requires systematic studies to ensure safety and to optimize dosing and regimen specifications tailored to theater or mission.

Some of the activities we are interested in include, but are not limited to:

  • Animal models or other predictive systems to determine how MCMs should be used in combination for optimal efficacy
  • Identification of MCM combinations that avoid interference of vaccine-induced immunity
  • How to use MCMs in combination to broaden the protective barrier against additional related targets

DTRA Session Chairs: Dr. Traci Pals and Mr. Rick Mathieson

Biological toxins have the potential to cause a wide range of physiological effects leading to death or incapacitation. Their mechanisms of action are diverse, ranging from blockage of specific molecular reactions to those acting at multiple sites. Different toxins can cause organ-specific morbidity, such as hepatotoxicity, nephrotoxicity or neurotoxicity, or simultaneous failure of multiple organs. The exponential increase in medical research centered around toxins and advances in biotechnology have increased the therapeutic profile of toxins while also lowering the barriers to access. Currently there are no FDA-licensed vaccines or FDA-approved therapeutics to serve as safe and effective medical countermeasures (MCM) against intoxication caused by most biotoxins and treatment options are limited in nearly all cases to supportive and palliative care. Furthermore, there is a lack of information on the pathophysiology associated with an aerosol exposure. The Joint Science and Technology Office's (JSTO) goal is to work with the wider scientific community to evaluate novel characterization tools, new or repurposed medical countermeasures (MCMs), and MCM platforms to aid in the development and utilization of countermeasures to protect the Warfighter from naturally-occurring or synthetic biological toxins. Since biological toxins are diverse in origin, chemical structure and mechanism of action, this class of threat agents may require a variety of characterization and countermeasure strategies.

Some of the applications we are interested in include, but are not limited to:

  • Strategies to characterize mechanism of action and structure/function relationships, with an emphasis on how these might affect animal model development for MCM testing
  • Toxicological implications and assessment, particularly with regard to different methods of exposure
  • Strategies for development of MCMs that have the potential to safely and effectively protect against different classes of biological toxins (pre- and post-exposure indications), with a preference for broad spectrum coverage of toxins with similar mechanisms of action
  • Strategies for leveraging platform technologies to accelerate fielding of toxin medical countermeasures to the warfighter

Developing Medical Countermeasures Against Chemical Threats

DTRA Session Chair: Dr. Kensey Amaya and Dr. Sweta Batni

The session will bring together experts from multiple scientific disciplines to discuss the application of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other computational tools in drug discovery, design, optimization, early-decision making, and modeling with specific focus on how these tools can be applied in de novo drug design, as well as in candidate mining, selection and optimization from small molecule or protein libraries. Topics of interest include computational tools to aid in or provide:

  • De novo drug design from natural products and other small molecules
  • Development, curation, and mining of both computational and chemical and biological compound libraries
  • Refinement of candidates and current products
  • Antibody and abzyme development
  • Design of delivery/transport vehicles
  • ADME/DMPK predictions to support drug safety
  • Modeling of drug-target interactions to support efficacy determination

Research and topics about in vitro, ex vivo and/or organ-on-a-chip technologies fall outside the scope of this session.

DTRA Session Chair: Dr. Alison Director-Myska

Toxidromes are a constellation of signs, symptoms and/or characteristics associated with exposure to a specific class of toxic chemicals, such as anti-cholinergic, cholinergic, opioid, convulsant, anticoagulant, stress-response/sympathomimetic, and knockdown/asphyxiant. Rapid recognition of toxidromes can focus the differential diagnosis to consideration of only a few chemicals with similar toxic effects and guide rapid triage and treatment. Medical countermeasures (MCMs) that target the toxidrome class are often sufficient for immediate treatment. For chemical warfare agents (CWAs) that are rapidly lethal, toxidrome recognition and treatment with antidotes, emergency respiratory support, and/or decontamination may be more critical than a time-consuming, agent-specific, definitive diagnosis. For example, nerve agent exposure triggers a cholinergic toxidrome, characterized by a specific set of signs and symptoms (e.g., pinpoint pupils (miosis), seizing, wheezing, twitching, and excessive output from all secretory cells/organs) as a result of over stimulation of cholinergic receptors leading to first activation and then fatigue of target organs. MCMs such as atropine (anti-cholinergic drugs) that target the specific toxidromic symptoms represent the first-line of defense against these types of CWAs. Because classes of chemical agents have different clinical presentations, a comprehensive understanding of the toxidromes for each class of agent is imperative and represents the first step in developing toxidrome-based MCMs. The Joint Science and Technology Office's (JSTO) goal is to work with the wider scientific community to better understand a toxidromic approach to MCM development. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Feasibility and utility of toxidrome-based MCMs
  • Defining the S&T space for new initiatives to explore toxidrome recognition and treatment
  • Developing a threat agnostic approach for treating toxidromes
  • Reviewing existing toxidrome data and identifying knowledge gaps to support R&D advancements

Generating Actionable Information in the Digital Battlespace

DTRA Session Chair: Mr. Rick Fry

The goal of DTRA's CBRN Decision Analysis and Management focus area is to enhance CBRN warfare agent hazard prediction and warning capabilities in support of DTRA Reachback and in fulfillment of JPM-IS requirements.

DTRA develops analysis products related to hazard prediction and warning for transition to JPEO and other stakeholders to aid in decision-making and program planning. We invite presentations demonstrating situational awareness tools and threat agent applications, which could include:

  • Emerging hazard prediction techniques (e.g. high-performance computing, graphical processing unit applications, neural networks and machine learning, etc.)
  • Innovative techniques for predicting initial hazards, exposures, casualties, and infections
  • New methods for modeling emerging threat agents, dissemination devices and CWMD scenario development
  • State-of-the-art methods for enabling timely and accurate warnings and intelligent responses, such as source term estimation, sensor modeling, and new meteorological forecasting/now-casting capabilities

DTRA Session Chair: Mr. Ed Argenta

This topic area seeks research exploring advancements in computational analytics and data storage technologies to aid in producing actionable information for military leadership decision making and record keeping. As the military transitions into an era of ‘Internet of Military Things’, operational advancements will be required to harvest these data to enable sophisticated algorithms to be developed for informing decision making. Specifically, this topic seeks presentations in the following two focus areas:

  1. Advanced host-based secure data storage capability for recording individual chemical and biological exposure history. These data technologies should allow for easy reading and data translation. The capability should provide longitudinal data throughout a warfighter’s career with no adverse host response and requiring little to no upkeep or replacement. Potential approaches may look at developing genomic or nanoparticle recording capabilities. This technology should also investigate the potential to provide a medical record archive on individuals, eliminating content rich databases which are highly-targeted for cyberattacks.
  2. Computational approaches for alerting individuals of potential exposure to chemical or biological threat agents. Specifically using clinically collected, medical grade, high-resolution waveform data (EEG, ECG, Blood Pressure, etc.) to develop a library of physiological signatures for chemical and biological agents of interest. This library could be leveraged to develop methodologies for pattern matching of the identified clinical signatures in order to alert of potential exposure prior to overt signs and symptoms. These initial alerting algorithms should be designed to run on the wearable devices themselves.  Extending these algorithms to support standoff surveillance, where most individuals are not outfitted with wearable devices, is also of interest.  Therefore approaches for combining these algorithms with other technologies (e.g., optical imagery) to identify potential exposure would also be welcome.

DTRA Session Chair: Dr. Sweta Batni

The deliberate release, or naturally occurring spread of, chemical and biological agents to the Warfighter poses a threat to force readiness and operational effectiveness. Non-automated approaches to model and forecast new and emerging infectious disease threats are often time consuming, expensive, and requires specialized expertise to identify and characterize patterns within the vast amount of complex, heterogeneous data sources. Hence, these technologies may be too slow to provide timely, actionable information to the warfighter.

The Joint Science and Technology Office (JSTO), is charged with researching and developing innovative technologies to support the Chemical and Biological Defense Program (CBDP). The goal of this session is to understand how JSTO can leverage Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence approaches to provide medical modeling decision support software and analytical tools to support force readiness, provide situational awareness, and facilitate medical planning against chemical and biological agents of relevance to the CBDP and Department of Defense.

DTRA Session Chair: Dr. Chris Kiley

Timely situational awareness is crucial in enabling the Warfighter to maintain force readiness when facing Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) threats. Handheld tactical decision aids support building a more lethal force by facilitating timely, effective, and informed decision making and continuity of operations in fully connected as well as disconnected and spectrum denied environments. Mobile systems such as Nett Warrior and Tactical Assault Kit have shown the ability to increase situational awareness, decrease reaction and decision times, collaborate and allocate resources and personnel critical to the mission, and augment operational capability. This topic seeks to highlight initiatives leveraging End User Devices to provide revolutionary capabilities to Warfighter at the tactical edge.

Some capabilities of interest to the Warfighter at the CBRN tactical edge include, but are not limited to:

  • Development/adaptation of new and existing tactical apps/plug-ins to integrate with Nett Warrior, TSOA, CBRN IS, ATAK, WinTAK, and WebTAK
  • Integration of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning algorithms
  • Utilization of heterogeneous computing methods for improved performance and battery life
  • Exploring augmented reality to provide chemical and biological threat situational awareness in head-mounted visual displays
  • Hazard prediction
  • Source term estimation
  • Tactical warning and reporting tool

Novel and Enhanced Detection and Diagnostic Technologies

DTRA Session Chair: Ms. Kathleen Quinn

Remote sensing technologies and chemical and biological (CB) reconnaissance capabilities help to inform command decisions and increase CBRNE personnel effectiveness. By using automated sensing detectors and platforms, sustained CB hazard monitoring can be achieved without exposing the operator to potentially contaminated environments and can provide early warning to inform appropriate protective postures. Automated sensors can be carried forward by unmanned aerial or ground vehicles to investigate potential hazards or be attached to manned vehicles or personnel to provide continuous surveillance against possible threats encountered. The Joint Science and Technology Office's (JSTO) goal is to expand current capabilities for CB detection while also investing in very low size, weight, and power (SWAP) sensors.

Areas of interest include but are not limited to:

  • Autonomous continuous monitoring solutions needing infrequent or no human intervention that are capable of reporting securely to an autonomous platform.
  • Adapting existing sensing technologies to the unique challenges of automated and/or aerial deployment (micro or Group 1 aerial systems).
  • Disposable remotely deployed sensors with potential for low-visibility deployment or leave-no-trace capabilities (leave and forget sensors).

DTRA Session Chairs: Dr. Diane Dutt and Dr. Julie Boylan

The Joint Science and Technology Office (JSTO) aims to develop complementary diagnostics to defend against biological threats and relevant pathogens of interest to the Chemical Biological Defense Program (CBDP) and the Department of Defense (DOD). Complementary diagnostics will help to greatly improve the management of the disease progression, earlier diagnosis, predictive patient risk and monitoring therapeutic medical treatment. JSTO's goal is to work with our US Government partners and the greater scientific community to evaluate the full breadth of how we can use complementary diagnostics to help protect the Warfighter.

Some of the Complementary Diagnostics capabilities we are interested include, but not limited to:

  • Use prognostic and predictive host response biomarkers to inform medical treatment and/or therapies
  • The development of “severity” markers that inform medical personnel of how sick the patient is
  • Enable development of agnostic, pre-symptomatic diagnostic devices for infectious diseases
  • Developing pain-free microneedles and wearable biosensor devices to detect host based biomarkers in minimally-invasive clinical samples such as dermal interstitial fluid
  • Investigating continuous monitoring capabilities in conjunction with artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms with bio surveillance platforms
  • Development of analytical tools that support and enhance complementary diagnostic capabilities

DTRA Session Chairs: Mr. Richard Mathieson and Dr. Patricia McMahon

Genotypic to phenotypic analysis tools are useful in characterizing biological threats, including novel threats and those that may be modified by genetic engineering. These types of analysis tools can deepen our ability to characterize phenotype and genotype linkages, phenotypic effects of mutations or gene editing, and aid in potentially identifying viable targets for detection, diagnostics, and countermeasure development. The Joint Science and Technology Office's (JSTO) goal is to work with the wider scientific community to evaluate the extent to which we can leverage robust and efficient genotypic/phenotypic characterization tools to help protect the Warfighter.

Some of the applications we are interested in include, but are not limited to:

  • Use of computational algorithms and high-performance computing resources to analyze sequencing data to predict associations/interactions between disease prognosis and polymorphisms.
  • Computational models that can predict phenotypes from genotypes.
  • Genotype-phenotype analysis to reveal correlations between the types of mutations identified and/or their predicted effect on expression and further predict onset and severity of the disease or threat.
  • Approaches that can evaluate genetic modifications and impact to phenotypic outcomes.
  • Novel analysis tools that can quickly classify targets and function relationships for detection, diagnostics, or countermeasure development.
  • Identification and characterization of gain-of-function mutations or loss-of-function mutations and their effects on phenotype.

DTRA Session Chair: Mr. Charles Hong

The Joint Science and Technology Office (JSTO) aims to develop and employ the use of synthetic biology based tools to defend against biological threats and relevant pathogens of interest to the Chemical Biological Defense Program (CBDP) and the Department of Defense (DOD). Synthetic biology based tools have the potential to increase sensitivity, increase specificity and multiplex assays onto a simple easy to use device without the need for a cold chain from multiple matrices. In addition, synthetic biology based tools are responsive to rapid assay development and manufacturing. JSTO's goal is to work with our US Government partners and the greater scientific community to evaluate the full breadth of how we can use synthetic biology based tools to help protect the Warfighter and maintain combat readiness.

Some of the Synthetic tools we are interested in include, but are not limited to:

  • Novel synthetic biology-based approaches to increase sensitivity, increase specificity with the ability to multiplex and detect either host based responses or threat specific targets from multiple matrices (clinical and/or environmental)
  • Simple easy to use, inexpensive devices preferably without the need for a cold chain and with all-in-one embedded reagents that could be utilized in a multi-echelon settings down to point of need
  • Leveraging synthetic biology or synthetic processes to support rapid assay development, assay versatility and manufacturing in response to new threats
  • Use artificial intelligence and machine learning to design new synthetic biology based assays quickly and further analysis and interpretation of data
  • Development of data analytic approaches and tools

Shielding the Warfighter from CB Threats

DTRA Session Chairs: Dr. Kendra McCoy and Dr. Annie Lu

This topic area focuses on fundamental and applied science and technology for development and assessment of advanced materials and system approaches for chemical and biological (CB) protection. The Joint Science and Technology Office (JSTO) is striving to develop lighter, cooler, smarter, and more effectively-integrated physical protection that enables the warfighter to fully complete the mission while protected from CB threats, including skin, eyes or lungs exposure to liquid, vapor, and aerosol hazards. These technologies should integrate into the warfighter’s combat ensemble to enhance individual survival by reducing the physical burden of individual protection as well as the operational impact of contaminated environments.

Some of the Protection submissions that we are interested include, but are not limited to:

  • Developing dynamic, multifunctional materials for second skin protective garments that are chemically/biologically-reactive, bio-mimetic, or have the capability to resist, absorb, or destroy contamination
  • Utilizing multifunctional materials for all hazards, individual or collective protection air filtration enhancements, i.e., high-efficacy filters able to better protect ships, buildings, and installations against CB threats
  • Leveraging surface chemistry in operando methods to study real-time behavior of agents in simulated, operationally-relevant environments
  • Improvements to technology usability (i.e., increased time-on-target, improved functionality [mobility, vision], and decreased thermal burden for warfighter) or logistical requirements
  • Developing new, enhanced protective equipment testing, verification, and validation methodology that improves materials characterization as well as the cost and time effectiveness of testing

Sustaining the Warfighter and Mission through CB Hazards

DTRA Session Chairs: Dr. Bernadette Higgins and Dr. Glenn Lawson

This topic area focuses on fundamental and applied science and technology that improves systems (chemistry, formulation, and application) for personnel, equipment, or wide area decontaminants, material coatings, and destruction of chemical warfare agents, in support of chemical and biological (CB) hazard mitigation. Hazard mitigation sustains the warfighter and mission by neutralizing the CB threat upon exposure or through decontamination, thereby limiting the spread of contamination to promote reduction in Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) levels. Technologies and capabilities of interest to The Joint Science and Technology Office (JSTO) are those that enhance warfighter survival through increased effectiveness and responsiveness of decontamination with reduced logistical burden, render CB threats harmless without harming personnel or materiel, and demonstrate improved efficacy across a broad range of CB threats.

Some of the Hazard Mitigation submissions that we are interested include, but are not limited to:

  • Reducing or eliminating CB contamination of personnel and personal effects as well as sensitive and non-sensitive equipment
  • Coatings with the capability to react to mitigate exterior contamination, and products with the capability to clean and/or recycle decontamination waste effluent
  • Improved coatings, including bio-inspired coatings, that reduce agent retention to facilitate decontamination
  • Improved decontamination methods for CB contamination over wide areas
  • Improved CB contamination mapping technologies to reduce logistical requirement of decontamination and ensure mitigation effectiveness