Producing Novel Proteins to Control Ice in Extreme Cold Weather Environments with DARPA

Ginkgo has been awarded a contract for up to $6 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to achieve DARPA’s objectives under its new Ice Control for cold Environments (ICE) program.

DARPA’s ICE program aims to develop new materials that control the physical properties of ice crystals to facilitate operations in extreme cold weather environments, which can pose a variety of risks to both personnel health and critical equipment. To meet this goal, Ginkgo, in collaboration with Netrias, Cambium, and consultant Dr. Ran Drori, aims to develop novel biologically-sourced and inspired materials that leverage biological adaptations to cold environments.

The Ginkgo team will work to enable the sustainable production of novel de-icing proteins with ice-modulating behaviors to improve operational efficacy in extreme cold weather environments.

These materials will be designed with the goal of meeting U.S. Department of Defense specifications and could potentially be used in solutions with broad commercial applications. One such application could be a lens coating to prevent frost formation for a range of optics applications from satellites and high altitude imaging instruments to security and wildlife cameras. The aviation and automobile industries could also benefit from de-icing products that facilitate safe operations in icy conditions. Furthermore, a topical frostbite prevention product could be developed for outdoor enthusiasts. If successful, these solutions could impact high value and consumer markets and facilitate replacement of current environmentally harmful de-icing agents.

The team plans to leverage Ginkgo Protein Services to design, screen, and optimize a library of novel proteins that demonstrate ice-modulating behaviors.

Ginkgo will design a library of proteins using metagenomic discovery and de novo computational design to source known, naturally occurring ice-modulating behavior proteins. During the discovery phase, predictive models will be used to iterate Design–Build–Test–Optimize loops, maximizing discovery of proteins with ice inhibition, induction, and low-adhesion properties. Throughout the process, Ginkgo will selectively screen promising proteins with further high-performance, application-specific characterization to inform the final down selection.

We are honored to be selected by DARPA to work on this program to facilitate sustained cold weather operations.

Building high-throughput libraries of candidate proteins is possible thanks to Ginkgo’s unique and differentiated data assets. Biology offers us a myriad of ways to adapt to our environment, and synthetic biology allows us to tap into nature’s capabilities and apply them to our own needs. We look forward to the products that the ICE program generates, which may enable enhanced safety and proficiency across various use cases.

To learn more about Ginkgo Protein Services, please visit

If you are interested in working with Ginkgo for the public sector, check out our Offerings for Governments page.

Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

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