Detect It with Gene Editing Technologies (DIGET)

Funding Agency:
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

 The goal of the DIGET program is to leverage advances in gene editing technologies to develop low-cost, high-trust, sensitive, multiplexed, rapidly reconfigurable, and fieldable diagnostics and biosurveillance technologies to address the need for timely and comprehensive threat detection surveillance to support Department of Defense (DoD) stabilization missions and outpace infectious disease.

DARPA is soliciting innovative proposals to develop distributed point-of-need and massively multiplexed gene editing-based nucleic acid detection capabilities for diagnostics and biosurveillance that address the following areas for technical innovation: (1) development of in silico tools to aid in design of gene editing guides, tools, and assays for detection of pathogen and host biomarker targets, (2) development of foundational enzymes and reporters to enable sensitive and specific detection of nucleic acid targets, (3) incorporation of detection reagents into assays that yield high sensitivity and specificity results in 15 minutes or less and can be rapidly reconfigured for new targets, (4) integration of detection assays into point-of-need diagnostics and massively multiplexed detection (MMD) devices, and (5) algorithms and analytics tools to assist interpretation of complex assays with clearly presented and easily understood results for decision making. Proposed research should develop innovative technologies to enable usage in field-forward locations and rapid reconfiguration of assays in response to new and emergent threats. Specifically excluded is research that primarily results in incremental improvements to the existing state of practice.


o Proposal Abstract Due Date and Time: January 7, 2020, 4:00 PM ET

o Full Proposal Due Date and Time: February 25, 2020, 4:00 PM ET

Agency Website

Areas of Interest

DIGET will encompass a four-year effort organized as two sequential two-year phases of increasing technical complexity. During Phase I, performer teams will establish and integrate the fundamental chemistry and hardware tools necessary to address each of the Technical Areas and will build benchtop (point-of-need) and breadboard (MMD) device prototypes to provide laboratory proof-of-concept for the point-of-need and MMD platforms. Phase II will focus on further development of prototypes, testing with a broad range of clinical and environmental samples, manufacturing, and ultimately field testing to generate data in support of submissions for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. Intermediate and end-of-phase milestones, as outlined in this BAA, will be required in each phase to evaluate progress throughout the program. 

The program consists of two Technical Areas (TAs) to be addressed concurrently:

1. Technical Area 1 (TA1): Detection assay design and development;

2. Technical Area 2 (TA2): Device development and deployment.

Eligibility Requirements

All responsible sources capable of satisfying the Government’s needs may submit a proposal that shall be considered by DARPA.

Funding Type





Engineering and Physical Sciences
Environmental & Life Sciences
Medical - Basic Science
Medical - Clinical Science
Medical - Translational

External Deadline

February 25, 2020