A virus outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt has inspired Pentagon scientists from a secretive unit called Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to create a special microchip that can be inserted underneath the skin and detect a SARS-Cov-2 infection, which could stop an outbreak in its tracks.
DARPA is a Pentagon unit in operation since the Cold War and specializes in the most revolutionary and advanced military technology created for national security.
“You put it underneath your skin and what that tells you is that there are chemical reactions going on inside the body, and that signal means you are going to have symptoms tomorrow,” said Retired Colonel Matt Hepburn on 60 Minutes.
Hepburn is an army infectious disease physician who is leading DARPA’s response to the pandemic. Inspiration for the microchip came after a virus outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, when 1,271 crew members tested positive for the coronavirus back in March 2020.
Hepburn referred to the technology as similar to a “check engine” light. Once the light goes off, you take a blood test on yourself. The information then comes back in three to five minutes, and you “stop the infection in its track,” said Hepburn.
Hepburn also told 60 Minutes about a filter that removes the virus from the blood when hooked up to a dialysis machine. It worked on “Patient 16,” who was the spouse of someone in the military. She was suffering in the ICU with organ failure and septic shock but made a full recovery within days after receiving the filtration treatment. The FDA has now authorized the treatment for emergency use, and it has been used on 300 critically ill patients.
“If we wanna say we can never let this happen again, we’re gonna have to go even faster next time,” said Hepburn. The mission he told 60 minutes, is to take pandemics off the table.
Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, a scientist from a similar Pentagon agency called the Joint Pathology Institute, is currently trying to create a super vaccine that will work against all coronaviruses. He said it would even protect against killer viruses that we have not yet encountered.
“We’re trying to not just make a vaccine for this virus; we’re trying to make a vaccine for the whole family of coronaviruses. This is the core of our vaccine. We engineer the spike so that we can attach it to this protein,” said Modjarrad. “This is not science fiction; this is science fact. We have the tools, we have the technology, to do this all right now.”