Revolutionizing Prosthetics is an ambitious multiyear program—funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)—to create a neurally controlled artificial limb that will restore near-natural motor and sensory capability to upper-extremity amputee patients. APL is leading an interdisciplinary team consisting of other Johns Hopkins institutions, government agencies, universities, and private firms to implement DARPA’s vision of providing the most advanced upper-extremity prosthesis.
APL and the U.S. Army Center for Environmental Health Research are developing capabilities to detect, assess, and prevent effects from exposure to toxic materials—focusing especially on ways to prevent acute and chronic health effects through new biological technologies. To this end, APL is enabling the development of novel technological solutions, including models for host–microbiome interaction, novel capabilities to detect coliform bacteria in water systems, and environmental risk assessment tools that can be readily integrated into the Nett Warrior combat situational awareness platform—in addition to executing personalized medicine initiatives related to pulmonary and environmental health.
APL’s leadership in electronic disease surveillance, both at home and abroad, is making a difference on the front lines of protecting the health of a population. Many state and local health departments have employed APL’s Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics (ESSENCE). With the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adopting ESSENCE as an analysis and visualization tool for the National Syndromic Surveillance Program—and using it to track developing situations from the opioid crisis to Zika outbreaks—we are laying the groundwork for a fully integrated national surveillance picture. Internationally, with our Suite for Automated Global Electronic bioSurveillance (SAGES), nations with limited resources are gaining capacity to conduct disease surveillance—a capability critical to providing early warnings for their populations as well as enhancing the safety of forward-deployed U.S. military personnel.
Mapping the Brain for Machine Learning
APL leads several test and evaluation efforts for the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity’s Machine Intelligence from Cortical Networks (MICrONs) project, launched to develop state-of-the-art machine learning capabilities by modeling how the brain processes information. APL has developed a novel cloud-based capability for storing, accessing, and processing petabytes (millions of gigabytes) of neuroanatomical data—the Block and Object Storage Service—that enables researchers from across the nation to conduct large-scale neuroscience inquiries. Additionally, APL scientists oversee the processing of data collected from targeted neuroscience experiments and evaluate the performance of various algorithms to automate identification of neural connections. The technologies that APL developed under MICrONs are already being leveraged by the broader research community and serve as a foundation for our future BRAIN initiative work and similar programs with global reach.
The Systems Approach to Saving Lives
APL’s thought leaders are stirring discussions on the importance of taking a systems approach to health care. In articles published in the Harvard Business Review and in a paper being developed for the National Academy of Medicine, Lab and Johns Hopkins Medicine experts stress how devices must be designed to work together if the health industry is serious about saving lives and increasing productivity. The problem is that clinicians too often mold processes around the demands of multiple devices and disparate health information systems. By using systems engineering, we can integrate technologies and build hospitals and clinics that ensure consistently safe, high-quality, and efficient care.
Durable and Portable Therapeutics Production
APL experts have made significant strides in developing methods for portable production of vaccines and other therapeutics, enabling production on demand in remote locations and during emergency outbreaks. Our method allows protein expression systems to withstand months of heat stress under atmospheric conditions. It efficiently produces proteins with reagents that can be easily stored and distributed under harsh conditions, overcoming many of the challenges associated with implementing novel therapeutics in remote areas.