Agency Update: DARPA Announces Proposers Day for New Insect Allies Program

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Biological Technologies Office (BTO) has announced a Proposers Day for the new Insect Allies program.  The Insect Allies program will seek to “provide an alternative to traditional agricultural threat response, using targeted gene therapy to protect mature plants within a single growing season.”  Insect Allies is a unique effort by DARPA to address emerging threats in the agricultural environment, such as agricultural bioterrorism domestically and abroad, as well as food security and production through synthetic biology.  New programs, like Insect Allies, represent a recognition by the Department of Defense (DOD) that innovative technologies are needed to combat non-traditional defense challenges.

By exploiting the natural system of insect vectors and the plant viruses they transmit, Insect Allies seeks to increase the resilience of crop plants through the development of “vector-mediated mature plant modification technologies.”  Funded projects will progress through three phases, or Technical Areas, of 12, 18, and 18 months respectively, requiring a demonstration at the end of each stage.  The requirements for each phase are as follows:

  • “Technical Area 1 will develop a plant virus that delivers a transgene to a target plant species;
  • Technical Area 2 will produce insect vectors for the modified virus to be transmitted to mature plants; and
  • Technical Area 3 is the successful introduction of functional traits to mature plants.”

Teaming is not required under this program, but it is strongly encouraged to ensure that applicants possess the resources and expertise to meet the demands of the project.

In anticipation of the BAA for the Insect Allies program, the Proposers Day on November 18 will include a Q&A session with Program Manager Dr. Blake Bextine, as well as “lightning talks” and poster sessions for potential proposers.  Specific objectives include introducing the Insect Allies program vision and goals to the community, facilitating interaction between investigators, and promoting teaming to effectively meet the research objectives of the program.

The Proposers Day event is limited to the first 100 attendees and the registration deadline is November 14, 2016 at 12:00 pm, or when capacity is reached.  For those unable to attend in person, a webcast of the event will be available with a limit of 500 participants.  Note that the registration deadline still applies.  Following the event, additional information and presentation materials will be made available at  Questions may be submitted prior to the event at

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This post was contributed by Lewis-Burke Associates LLC






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