By Kim Coghill

Washington Editor

WASHINGTON ¿ The Department of Defense has grant funding available for scientists willing to develop technology to solve a war fighter¿s ability to resist fatigue and sleep deprivation.

The department has scheduled a workshop sponsored by the defense sciences office of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) August 21-23 in Las Vegas to explore areas of research that might be under investigation by companies with platforms in neuroscience, said John Carney, program manager in the defense sciences office of DARPA.

Proposals must be submitted by October 1 for fiscal year 2002 funding, the total amount of which has not been disclosed.

¿Ultimately we would like to give [war fighters] a pill that would counteract the changes in the way the brain works that are caused by not sleeping,¿ Carney told BioWorld Today. ¿There¿s nothing on the market that does this. Other products on the market are stimulants that enhance alertness for a brief period of time but don¿t change fundamental processing capabilities.¿

Carney said the U.S. Army already has researched the best and most effective uses of caffeine and other stimulants.

¿What we are doing is taking a different view and saying if we understand how the brain changes, then we can get in front of it and pre-empt the process with some novel approaches that will control the problem, and not take the other view and try to reverse it after it happens,¿ he said.

The August meeting, referred to as the Continuous Assisted Performance Program Workshop, is meant to provide a forum for companies and institutions to gain an understanding of the program¿s mission.

Workshop organizers said some of the technology topics slated for discussion include neuroscience, neurobiology, cognitive psychology, cell signaling/regulation, non-invasive imaging technologies and novel mathematical approaches to modeling and analysis. No system concepts will be excluded from consideration.

¿Fundamentally, what I¿m looking to do is stimulate interest in the small pharmaceutical companies that are working in the area of learning and memory and neuroscience to come up with new therapeutic approaches,¿ Carney said. ¿My goal is to roll out a program that will work on new and exciting targets and validate the target, and then fund the winners that make it into Phase II in such a way that [they] will have adequate resources to take it to an [investigational new drug application] filing by the time the program finishes.¿

The workshop will include several technology and concept overview presentations by government personnel and several poster session forums, including brief oral presentations to bring about interaction and team prospecting amongst the participants.

The registration fee is $250 and the cutoff date is Aug. 6. For more information, access the Continuous Assisted Performance Web site at http://safe.sysplan.com/ cap_meeting/ or contact, via e-mail, BAA01-28@darpa.mil and include ¿Continuous Assisted Performance Workshop¿ in the subject line.

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