April 11, 2003
Biological systems provide unique inspirations and motivations for developing new Defense technologies. Over the last 5 years, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has launched new efforts to exploit biology in new ways and has continued to expand interests in harvesting revolutions in biology. Most of our mature Defense technologies are based on biomolecular systems. This is inherently due to the contribution of chemistry and physics to a greater understanding of biomolecular structure, function, and the thermodynamics and kinetics of their interactions. Yet, much of the wonder of biological systems can be found at scales that physics, chemistry and mathematics are only beginning to understand due to their complex nature. By harnessing cells, tissues, and organisms, new technological platforms have been developed which provide new insights into the potential of bio-inspired technologies. Some examples include the use of cells and tissues in sensors and devices, the extraction of neuronal ensembles to communicate and control prosthetic devices, the use of honeybees in hard target location, the exploitation of mechanical and structural components of adhesion used for vertical climbing by geckos, and the development of legged robots based on the efficient conversion of potential to kinetic energy in legged locomotion. The mining of these inspirations usually comes through fostering an interdisciplinary approach, paying attention to computational methods and experimental design, and close nurturing of progress from a dedicated team that understands the progression and development of knowledge to technology.
Dr. Alan Rudolph currently is a program manager for the Defense Sciences Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. He has been active in research and development of biotechnological products for the Department of Defense for over a dozen years. He has worked as a program manager and principle investigator and has over 100 technical publications and 15 patents in interdisciplinary projects that address fundamental principles & technological applications of biological self-assembly, biomaterials, tissue engineering, & neurosciences. His current position at DARPA is to invest and manage high risk, high pay-off multidisciplinary research and development projects in biotechnology. These programs include the design and fabrication of useful interfaces for biological molecules, cells, and tissues for working devices (e.g. diagnostics, sensors, prosthetics). He has also recently explored the development of wireless devices with biological systems in order to better understand and develop emerging technologies. He received his B.S. with highest honors in biology from the University of Michigan, a Ph.D., in Cell Biology at the University of California and an M.B.A from The George Washington University.