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OSTP, NIH leaders describe their vision for new biomedical innovation agency

In a commentary published in Science on June 22, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Eric S. Lander, PhD, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, and other leaders described a vision for a new science entity, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H). Included in the President’s fiscal year 2022 budget with a requested funding level of $6.5 billion, ARPA-H would accelerate biomedical innovation and adoption of technologies and approaches to revolutionize healthcare and medicine.

Lander and Collins, et al. wrote that ARPA-H should embrace a culture and approach similar to that of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to champion innovative ideas in health and medicine. Put forth as a distinct division within NIH, ARPA-H would focus on time-limited projects with goals, benchmarks, and accountability to revolutionize how we prevent, treat, or cure a range of diseases, including cancer, infectious diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, and others. Projects supported by ARPA-H would focus on solving practical problems that foster breakthroughs to serve patients equitably — at levels ranging from the molecular to the societal — and drive them to the point of adoption. The authors argue ARPA-H could act as a mechanism to remove barriers and bring bold ideas to fruition more quickly.

Cross-agency partnerships will be critical to the new agency's success, the authors noted.

"Within the Department of Health and Human Services, it will be important for ARPA-H to collaborate with other key agencies such as the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, BARDA [the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority], and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services—to identify critical needs and opportunities and to partner on complex projects that interact, for example, with public health infrastructure or medical regulation," they wrote. "DARPA should also play a role in advising ARPA-H on its experiences in driving breakthrough innovation and collaborating on specific projects of shared interest. And, it would be valuable to engage science-based agencies and departments, such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy."

ARPA-H could help the U.S. capitalize on this unprecedented moment of scientific promise to drive life-saving discoveries and advancements which have the potential to significantly impact the health and quality of life for all Americans.

Read more: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/lander-collins-set-forth-v...

Read the commentary: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2021/06/22/science.abj8547

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