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Research Project: Development and U.S. Based Production of a Rugged Fully Encapsulating Suit for the ABSL-4 Ag and other BSL-4 Environments (Phase 3)

Location: Research Programs

Project Number: 3022-32000-018-040-A
Project Type: Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 15, 2023
End Date: Jun 30, 2026

This agreement will address Phase 3 of this ongoing project and will focus on the following objectives: - Component and interfaces testing according to requirements developed during Phase 1 and suit design developed in Phase 2. - Revision to the initial BSL-4 ensemble design according to feedback on the prototypes developed during Phase 2. - Production of prototype BSL-4 ensembles (n=6). - Testing and evaluation of BSL-4 ensembles according to metrics, specifications, and requirements developed during Phase 1. - Solicitation of end-user feedback on finished prototypes. - Manufacturer selection and manufacturing plan development. The manufacturing plan will include product technical data package creation that will detail the product design, bill of materials, equipment information, production instructions, supply chain information, testing requirements and product pricing forecast / modeling. - Finalizing the technical data package

ARS has been leading the interagency effort to address U.S. supply chain repercussions on critical biodefense research due to the discontinuation of the sole U.S. produced maximum containment fully encapsulated suit. Development of a new, ruggedized BSL-4 suit based on user input can protect researchers in maximum containment environments including ABSL-4 Ag. A new U.S. suit design will support sustainable procurement for all U.S. BSL-4 labs even during of times of emergencies where international supply chain is impacted. ARS had funded phase 1 and 2 of this this project via an interagency agreement with another agency to utilize the expertise and project management of the cooperator. Phase 1 focused on 1) identifying material options, evaluate options for BSL-4 suit design performers, ensure efficacy and a robust U.S. supply chain for materials and components 2) Establish suit design requirements, generate new suit conceptual designs and identify domestic manufacturers 3) update technical design packages and ensure completeness. Phase 2 which has just entered its performance period obectives include 1) selection of suit designer, production of full ensemble prototypes and conduct end-user touchpoints to gather feedback on prototypes. Phase 3 will be the culmination of this project of this project and will focus on prototype development and testing, garnering feedback from U.S. suit users, identification of a manufacturer and development of a sustainable manufacturing plan. This project will benefit other U.S. BSL-4 facilities and the U.S. Biodefense industry in general.