The University of Colorado will develop a new technological system to rapidly determine how drugs and biological or chemical agents exert their effects on human cells, under a $14.6 million grant announced today.
The grant was awarded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, an arm of the U.S. Department of Defense.
The project, called the Subcellular Pan-Omics for Advanced Rapid Threat Assessment, or SPARTA, will be conducted by an interdisciplinary team at CU under Research Assistant Professor William Old of the chemistry and biochemistry department.
DARPA hopes to better understand the biochemical mechanisms at work during cellular exposures to biological or chemical agents, to help prevent death during potential conflicts. But Old also expects the research effort also to lead to new, broad-scale techniques to analyze cellular processes for a more broad societal benefit.
"Traditionally it takes decades to figure out how drugs affect an organism's biology," Old said in a news release. "Our goal is to rapidly speed up the process, identifying how these compounds work in weeks. This could lower the barriers to developing effective drugs that have minimal side effects."
The DARPA agreement will facilitate the purchase of two more next-generation mass spectrometers for CU researchers working in the university's BioFrontiers Institute, augmenting the seven state-of-the-art mass spectrometers, located in the Proteomics and Mass Spectrometry Core Facility under Old's direction.