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DASA seeks technologies to detect airborne pathogens

By September 8, 2023No Comments

The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) is pleased to launch a new Innovation Focus Area (IFA) called Revolutionising Biosensing: Instant Detection within Aerosol Collector Substrates. This IFA seeks innovations that will help contribute to the development of generation-after-next biosensing technologies.

This IFA is run on behalf of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).

Do you have a biosensing solution? Read the full requirements and submit your proposal.

Background: the importance of biosensing

Timely detection and identification of airborne pathogens or hazardous materials is crucial for an integrated systems-based response to a malicious release. This allows for quick implementation of measures to ensure safety. One common method for collecting airborne materials is via the capture of air samples onto filters, followed by removal and the specific detection of nucleic acids or surface antigens (e.g. PCR, ELISA). However, the downstream (i.e. off filter) processing step(s) increase burden for the user and delays actionable response, such as donning respiratory protection or taking medical countermeasures. Specific identification to species level is therefore critical to ensure timely intervention. Capacity to perform the assay while the sample is still on the filter would be a significant step-change in capability.

The vision of UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) and Security Partners Across Government (PAG) is to develop generation-after-next biological sensing capabilities that will sustain strategic advantage and contribute a decisive edge. The MOD is currently investing in several projects developing future platforms for which filter-based collection of airborne material will remain a favourable technology option. This Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) Innovation Focus Area (IFA) is supporting efforts to leverage novel advances and techniques in the fields of sensing and filtration to understand and open the exciting potential to integrate biological sensing assays onto filters for UK defence and security applications.


This IFA is seeking proposals that present novel solutions that facilitate detection and identification of biological threat materials on or within a filter substrate. Submitted proposals must:

  • demonstrate evidence of an innovative and unique approach with practical experimentation
  • incorporate assays supporting species level specificity with good sensitivity (detect at concentration of 100 microbes per litre of air)
  • use microbe(s) to demonstrate functionality (preferably in aerosol phase)
  • reduce downstream processing burden for filter-based collection techniques
  • provide a readily discernible signal to a positive event in a rapid time frame (preferably equal to or less than 60 min)
  • reach between Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) 1 and 4 by the end of contract
  • consider at onset the real world challenges to prototyping concepts across TRL 5 to 7
  • have project values of ideally between £50,000 to £150,000
  • have a project duration of no more than 12 months, including reporting

Submit a proposal

Do you have a solution or novel approach that may help Dstl develop new biosensing techniques?

Read the full competition document to learn more and submit a proposal

Ben Kemp