Potentially Game-Changing in the Research Arena, ARPA-H Draws Closer to Reality

We are on the cusp of a major expansion to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world. Plans continue to move forward for the development of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), which would be housed at NIH.

This new agency — inspired by the achievements driven the by Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)— is designed to “embrace bold and high-risk, high reward solutions with the potential to accelerate disruptive progress across an array of diseases and conditions and at levels ranging from the molecular to the societal.”

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has just released a new report on a series of listening sessions that have taken place over the last several months. These sessions yielded feedback from more than 5,100 stakeholders representing almost 250 organizations, GSA included. I was privileged to represent GSA at a July session, where I recommended ARPA-H embrace a geroscience approach, targeting the intersection of aging and chronic disease, instead of a disease-specific approach. I also advocated pursuing opportunities in the social and behavioral sciences, along with biomedicine, that could provide rapidly scalable innovations while also advancing health equity. My remarks further stressed the importance of a culture of collaboration with private sector partners and other government agencies.

GSA Public Policy Advisor Brian Lindberg also focused on the promise of ARPA-H in a recent Policy News article in Gerontology News. As Congressional budget appropriators look ahead to FY 2022, funding for ARPA-H continues to be included, although at a lower amount than the $6.5 billion originally requested by the Biden-Harris administration. We appreciate that the proposed funding supplements rather than supplants the NIH base funding. We’ll continue to keep ARPA-H news on your radar, because I know GSA members are prime candidates to move us forward on the projects this agency will undertake!

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