DASA competition: Sample Preservation, Analysis, and Attribution

DASA (Defence & Security Accelerator) seeks proposals for sample preservation, analysis and attribution of hazardous chemical and biological materials.

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The total possible funding available for this competition is £1 million (excluding VAT), DASA expects to fund 3-4 proposals. However, DASA reserves the right to fund one outstanding bid up to £1 million (excluding VAT) that demonstrates value for money, provides high quality supporting evidence to deliver on the competition focus.

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This Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) competition is seeking proposals that can address challenges associated with sample surface collection/preservation, analysis and attribution (SPAA) of hazardous chemical and biological (ChemBio) materials. New technology options or technical approaches could ultimately help both the successful identification of material and directly/indirectly aid in bringing perpetrators to justice. As well as addressing this diverse set of technical requirements, one of the goals of the “SPAA” is to engage with a non-traditional ChemBio supplier base in order to yield innovative solutions. Up to £1 million is available to fund multiple innovations at Technology Readiness level (TRL) 2-4 to deliver fieldable prototypes/software (TRL6+) to support investigations into CB incidents. This includes sample collection all the way through to the tools used for identification and attribution. We are expecting to fund 3 to 4 proposals.

There are three main challenge areas where innovative solutions and approaches are being sought, listed below.

This competition is jointly funded by the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the US Department of Defence (DOD), and will operate under an extant memorandum of understanding between both nations. Both the MOD and DOD will have equal rights of access to information submitted under this competition.

  • DASA submissions are welcome from the private sector, academia, individuals (i.e. sole traders) and Public Sector Research Establishments (PSREs). DASA will examine the legal status of organisations prior to placement of any contract. In most cases there are no nationality restrictions, however DASA individual competition documents will detail any necessary restrictions.

  • The principal goal for this challenge is to enable the rapid classification of “unknown” hazardous substances in the case of not being able to detect or identify a specific ChemBio agent. In essence, these technologies will aid in the initial screening and triage of samples submitted to the laboratory for analysis (i.e. a key safety feature of any analytical laboratory). Crucially, in order to achieve this later requirement, technologies should screen for the presence of Chemical and/or Biological materials down to the lowest sensitivity levels. All technologies must meet the TRL6 requirement at the end of the 24 month contract.

    We are looking for techniques or approaches that can achieve at least some of the elements of the following:

    • provide additional information on ChemBio through the substances physical or biological/chemical properties aiding classification
    • either a single, a combination of orthogonal approaches, or an adjunct to existing commercial-off-the-shelf technology
    • identification of target analytes (or biomarkers of exposure) through the analysis of environmental or biomedical samples
    • work rapidly (i.e. provide a results in up to 60 minutes)

    There are also two principal concepts of use for the approaches of interest here:

    • these fieldable techniques should be operable by non-specialist users (deployed systems should be fast, light, mobile, ruggedized and simple to use)
    • laboratory-based techniques operated by Suitably Qualified Experienced Personal (SQEP)
  • The goal of this challenge is to retrieve samples from an Operational setting (Overseas or Homeland) using a system(s) that preserves the properties of the materials collected. All technologies must meet the TRL6 requirement at the end of the 24 month contract.

    Solutions should fulfil at least some of the following criteria:

    • include a device that safely and appropriately contains and stores hazardous chemical and/or biological materials that can be transported easily back to the laboratory
    • immediately self-stabilising for carriage upon sampling and/or are a “collection system” (i.e. materials/solutions that can added/mixed with a sample in order to maintain integrity during transport)
    • technology should be compatible with chemical and/or biological material
    • approaches that support biomedical and/or clinically-relevant samples are also of interest (e.g. maintaining the cellular composition/viability, genetic, proteomic material)
    • easy to use (i.e. can be put in the hands of collectors with minimal specialist training)
    • can be operated easily within PPE (e.g. chemical resistant butyl gloves, respirator)
    • once fully developed the technology must be able to comply with International Transport Regulations (e.g. be safe for air travel)
    • must stabilise materials for a defined timeframe (i.e. minimum 14 days; stretch target = 90 days)
    • defined environmental conditions for stability studies (i.e. basic condition = ambient room temperature; stretch target = up to 50°C)
    • materials to be stabilised without any form of cold chain storage requirement
    • defined area of collection for performance assessment (i.e. Classic swabbing = 10 cm2)
    • defined high efficiency collection (e.g. minimum acceptance might be greater than 30 – 50 % recovery from an agreed standardised surface; stretch target = greater than 90 %)

    During the process of Test and Evaluation the innovation will be required to meet the performance criteria (outlined above and summarised in Table 1) and stabilise ChemBio hazards within Operationally-relevant sample matrices. To progress towards TRL6, it is anticipated that the innovation will stabilise at least two different biological organisms (i.e. Gram-positive, Gram-negative, virus, protein toxin or equivalent) and ideally with some testing being undertaken upon from Biosafety Level II and III organisms. Similarly, for the stabilisation of the reactions processes involving at least two classes of chemical. Testing involving chemical weapons (i.e. as covered by the Chemical Weapons Convention) is advantageous.

  • The goal of this challenge is to maximise the information and breadth of approaches that can be used to analyse a sample enabling its underlying properties to be determined. By acquiring this level of detail about a sample increases the opportunity for the perpetrators of the use of ChemBio materials to be identified during an investigation. All technologies must meet the TRL6 requirement at the end of the 24 month contract.

    We are looking for techniques, technologies or approaches that enable attribution by:

    • being able to determine the original or source (i.e. provenance)
    • provide information on how the target of interest or agent was produced
    • how it was stored and/or who made the material
    • determine the target of interest or agent used based on other related analytes detected in the sample
    • facilitate the potential for “batch matching” (e.g. linking samples collected from different sites or sources)
  • Dial-in session

    19 March 2024 – A dial-in session providing further detail on the problem space and a chance to ask questions in an open forum. If you would like to participate, please register on the Eventbrite page.

    26 March 2024 – A series of 20 minute one-to-one teleconference sessions, giving you the opportunity to ask specific questions. If you would like to participate, please register on the Eventbrite page. Booking is on a first come first served basis.

    Submission deadline

    12:00 Midday on Tuesday 30 April 2024 (BST)

    If you would like additional advice or help, contact Hazel Biggs, KTM for Defence & Security.


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