By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC
In the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 omnibus appropriations bill, Congress provided $1 billion to establish a new agency focused on innovative biomedical research. The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) will conduct groundbreaking research to prevent, detect, and treat diseases. ARPA-H will be an independent agency housed in the National Institute of Health (NIH) which is overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The agency is expected to release their first Broad Agency Announcement this fall, with the intention awarding their initial funding in March 2023. This timeline is dependent on ARPA-H’s ability to hire project managers, and other full-time workforce for the agency.
To begin this process, in September President Joe Biden announced Dr. Renee Wegrzyn to be the Director of ARPA-H. Dr. Wegrzyn previously served as a program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), as well as at the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA). At DARPA, her work focused on synthetic biology and gene editing to enhance biosecurity, to promote public health, and to support the domestic bioeconomy. Since ARPA-H will operate under the NIH, Dr. Wegryn will not need to be Senate confirmed and officially assumed her role on October 17th, 2022. The overarching goal of ARPA-H is high-risk, high-reward research, an area in which NIH has struggled in the past. Dr. Wegrzyn will bring lessons learned from DARPA, IARPA, to help support the effective roll out of the new agency.
The details of ARPA-H will still need to be finalized over the coming months. This includes determining the final location of the agency; however, it is likely to be decentralized with one headquarter location and program managers dispersed all over the country. Congress is also looking at enacting additional legislation that can solidify ARPA-H as a new agency and provide additional Congressional direction. Further, the specific topics and areas of interest are yet to be defined. In a recent speech, President Biden highlighted his optimism that the new agency is positioned to make transformation investments in cancer testing, preventative vaccines, precision drug and gene therapies, and other innovative health projects. Although, a major focus of ARPA-H will be to cure cancer, President Biden also emphasized that other life-threatening diseases including Alzheimer’s Disease and diabetes will also remain at the center of ARPA-H’s work. HFES will continue to keep researchers apprised and look for opportunities to influence the new agency as ARPA-H takes shape.
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