DOD Funds HBCUs to Advance Biotechnology and Materials Science Research


New Centers of Excellence will house an array of future-facing studies.

Two historically black colleges and universities secured a collective $15 million in Defense Department funding to form centers of excellence in biotechnology and materials science—areas the Pentagon views as top near-term priorities.

Baltimore, Maryland-based Morgan State University will head the Center for Advanced Electro-Photonics with 2D Materials. Collaborating with experts from Johns Hopkins University in this effort, Morgan State officials will hone in on the technological potential of an emergent class of two-dimensional materials for military-aligned uses. Thermally-managed photo-sensors and wearable photovoltaics—which essentially convert sunlight to electricity—will be among the specific technologies explored.

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, based in Greensboro, will run the Center for Biotechnology. There, officials from the institution and Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine will conduct research to produce technology that can detect and monitor chemical and biological threat agents using an integrated micro-engineered, organ-equivalent system. 

Among their many other responsibilities, the centers will provide training to underrepresented students pursuing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, disciplines at K-12, undergraduate and graduate levels.

“Biotechnology and materials science remains a priority across the Department to achieve new operational capabilities ranging from strengthening chemical biological defense systems to impacting warfighter performance,” Acting Deputy Director for Research, Technology, and Laboratories in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Dr. Jagadeesh Pamulapati said.

This selection of the two HBCUs was based on a merit review led by a panel of experts. The Pentagon’s 2021 funding opportunity announcement for this opportunity received 27 eligible proposals with combined requested funding totaling $150 million, officials from the department confirmed in their announcement.

“After successful completion of negotiations between DOD and the academic institutions, both awards have been made by the Army Contracting Command,” they wrote.