WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. A report being released today (Wednesday, 6/20) recommends that the U.S. Army take advantage of dramatic advancements in biotechnology that promise to help soldiers survive and perform better in the 21st century.
The report, from the National Research Council's Board on Army Science and Technology, was prepared by a 16-member committee chaired by Michael Ladisch, a distinguished professor of biomedical engineering and agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue University. The council is the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine.
By the year 2025, biotechnology will likely bring advances such as "rugged computer memories" made from genetically engineered proteins, camouflage materials and lightweight armor inspired by living organisms, portable solar-power systems, "biological markers" that help to distinguish friendly soldiers from the enemy, wristwatch-size sensors and devices that detect biological and chemical warfare agents. Research also promises to make possible the creation of new vaccines, drugs and wound-healing technologies, and medical applications that provide broad benefits to world health, states the report.
"These are but a few of a myriad of possibilities, some of which may never be developed for lack of commercial incentive, thus challenging the Army to devise ways of influencing their development," according to the report, "Opportunities in Biotechnology for Future Army Applications."
Recommendations in the report stress the importance of developing defensive technologies aimed at improving the survivability and effectiveness of U.S. soldiers. The report specifically does not address the use of biotechnology for offensive applications.
To illustrate the dramatic significance of emerging technologies, the report includes hypothetical, but realistic, battlefield scenarios in the year 2025.