Pittsburgh Lab Partners With Pentagon On Next-Generation PPE

A Pittsburgh lab has a partnership with the Pentagon on next-generation PPE.

Video Transcript

KYM GABLE: The city of Pittsburgh never disappoints. The Steel City always on the cutting edge, leading the way with the latest technology. And this time, a local company is partnering with the Pentagon to develop the next generation of personal protective equipment for war fighters and medical professionals. Good evening, and thanks so much for joining us tonight at 7:30. I'm Kym Gable. Meghan Schiller has the night off. And joining me right now live over Zoom is project manager Jennifer Poole from FLIR Systems. Jennifer, thanks so much for being here this Friday with us.

JENNIFER POOLE: Thank you so much for having me.

KYM GABLE: Yeah, you know Pittsburgh is home to some pretty impressive companies that are really forging our future. So tell us first about the work that FLIR does for those of us who aren't familiar with the company.

JENNIFER POOLE: So FLIR systems is primarily known for their work in thermal imaging technology, but our [INAUDIBLE] here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, we actually have over a 20-year history of working in chemical and biological detection. So we have many products that are out there on the battlefield every day being fielded to help the war fighters look for chemical and biological threats.

KYM GABLE: Yeah, and this partnership specifically with DARPA highlights the importance of the evolution of those things, of the PPE, which was once sounding like science fiction, but it's happening now. So tell us about the science behind this.

JENNIFER POOLE: Sure. So the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency that we've teamed up with for this personalized protective biosystems program, or PPB program, there's two technology areas within this program. The first is to prevent contact. So we are making new smart materials that can be made into new protective equipment, such as gloves or masks or suits.

And then there's a second portion of the program that is designed to neutralize threats to tissue barriers so that they could prevent contact at the skin, airways, and eyes should the agents actually contact the skin. So FLIR's participating in this first technology area, where we're looking to prevent contact and generate new personalized protective equipment, making the athletic wear of personalized protective equipment.

KYM GABLE: Yeah. We were looking there at both those soldiers on the battlefield and also those health care professionals. So how specifically will those health care workers benefit from this?

JENNIFER POOLE: So the material that we're looking to make, generally the existing protective equipment that they have available to them is bulky and burdensome and difficult to work in. They can get heat exhaustion, and it's not very breathable. And so what we're looking to generate here is something that is lightweight and breathable and allows them to do their job without even hindering them or making them feel like they're wearing any protective equipment at all.

KYM GABLE: And Jennifer, it's been said in recent weeks that the overarching goal here is to strive to make this the last pandemic. Is there confidence among the research community that that is a possibility?

JENNIFER POOLE: Absolutely, especially in terms of the protective equipment that we are generating now. A lot of advancement has been made in smart materials, and some of the materials that they're making right now is just amazing towards the protection that they can offer while making it so that you don't even feel like you're wearing it at all.

KYM GABLE: You and I were chatting before the show, and you said something really, really cool. You said how much fun this is. So that's an important point, that you guys are having fun doing something so life-changing, so important.

JENNIFER POOLE: Absolutely. It's fantastic to work on something that has a direct impact on the military in our traditional scope but also something that is important to everybody every day, especially during this pandemic, as this particular project will have direct uses for protecting people who are caring for those with COVID-19.

KYM GABLE: And Jennifer, we really do look forward to seeing all that FLIR does. Thanks so much for being with us on this Friday evening.

JENNIFER POOLE: Thank you.