Measuring Biological Aptitude

Funding Agency:
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

The Measuring Biological Aptitude (MBA) program aims to address the need for a more capable fighting force by improving how an individual warfighter identifies, measures, and tracks personalized biomarkers to help achieve new levels of performance for specialized roles throughout their career. The MBA program will give warfighters the ability to understand, in real-time, the underlying biological processes that govern their own performance by elucidating the internal expression circuits (e.g., genetic, epigenetic, metabolomic, etc.) that shape militaryrelevant cognitive, behavioral, and physical traits. Simultaneously, the program will create new technologies for tracking these expression circuits in real time, providing instantaneous user feedback to aid the warfighter to be successful throughout training, assessment and selection, and mission execution for their desired military specialty. 


o Proposal Abstract Due Date and Time: February 28, 2019, 4:00 pm Eastern Standard Time

o Proposal Due Date and Time: April 8, 2019, 4:00 pm Eastern Standard Time

Agency Website

Areas of Interest

The MBA program will consist of three technical areas (TAs) with a total period of performance of 48 months over three phases: 18-month Phase I (Base), 12-month Phase II (Option 1), and 18- month Phase III (Option 2). Once the MBA program begins, DARPA will provide performers access to biomarker and phenotypic data from at least one pre-identified military cohort of approximately 70 individuals, as well as information about assessment and selection outcomes in the cohort. This access will be facilitated by a separately funded data collection team who will work with each performer team, serving as the interface between the military populations and the performers on all TAs, including during key activities to include preparation, assessment, and selection events. 

Proposing teams will be required to address both TA1 and TA2 together, and must provide an integrated, multidisciplinary approach addressing each element of TA1 and TA2. Teams must develop approaches that are generalizable such that they can be widely applicable in any branch of the military, regardless of the source of the pre-identified military cohort data provided at the outset of the program. Proposers are strongly encouraged to team with industry partners that can develop commercial applications based on work performed in the MBA program. 

TA3 will require teams to submit an independent validation and verification (IV&V) plan to conduct separate analyses of all results generated in the program and verify and validate the analyses and technologies generated in the efforts under TA1 and TA2. To avoid conflicts of interest, teams that are selected for TA3 will not be allowed to perform on TA1 and TA2.

Technical Area 1 (TA1): Expression Circuits

  • Phenotypic Assays
  • Expression Circuit Analysis
  • Expression Circuit Analysis Tools

Technical Area 2 (TA2): Real-Time Molecular Target Monitoring

Technical Area 3 (TA3): Independent Validation and Verification (IV&V) for Testing & Evaluation (T&E) of MBA System

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

External Deadline

April 8, 2019