DENVER — Palantir Technologies, a software maker specializing in big data analytics, said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will expand its work with the company to help modernize the agency’s approach to food supply chain and resilience and avoid shortages of critical foodstuffs like this year’s infant formula crisis.

Palantir will act as the central operating platform for food supply chain disruption monitoring and crisis response for the 21 FORWARD Initiative under a contract worth $22 million, the Denver-based company said in a statement.

21 FORWARD, part of the FDA’s “New Era of Smarter Food Safety” blueprint, brings together multiple data sources from federal government agencies including the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify areas of the food supply chain where there will likely be disruptions. It seeks to help stakeholders understand and mitigate how domestic COVID-19 incident rates impact segments of the food system and production — and was leveraged as part of the federal response to the infant formula shortage.

”Now more than ever public health preparedness is central to our security and safety as a nation and we are honored to support our leading institutions with best in class technology to anticipate and plan for these events,” said Palantir Chief Medical Officer William Kassler in the statement. “By leveraging technology, the FDA is investing in a foundational data-driven approach to improve outcomes for our country.”

This U.S. experienced a severe shortage of infant formula this year as a result a global supply chain crisis compounded by a product recall. Abbott Labs, which produces 40% if the infant formula in the country, shut down production at a plant in Michigan in February after the FDA ordered a recall, citing product safety concerns.

The shortage, brought on by the recall of formula, underscored the need for centralization and integration of inter-agency and commercial data sources, according to Palantir. 21 FORWARD now serves as a coordination hub to support decision-makers with the information they need to respond to similar crises, it said.

This contract will allow the FDA to address a broader food safety scope and focus not only on crisis response, but also identify and plan preventative measures in the case of food safety events. With the evolving nature of public health supply chains, it was essential that the FDA’s Office of Food Policy and Response have an environment for rapid application configuration, Palantir said, adding that in a matter of weeks, the platform was established as the central operating platform on supply chain analytics related to infant formula earlier this year.

Additionally, the FDA will leverage investments it has already made in modernized infrastructure and lead with a cloud-first approach, according to the company. 21 FORWARD is deployed in the Palantir Federal Cloud Service, Palantir Technologies’ FedRAMP Moderate cloud environment. The initiative’s hosting infrastructure and operations are a managed, standardized, tested and externally audited Software-as-a-Service platform that scales to demand.

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