ARPA-H Leverages Private-Sector Expertise To Tackle ‘Imagine If’ Questions, Director Says

The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), a two-year-old agency modeled after the iconic U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) unit that invented the internet and GPS, is reaching high in its initial projects to solve diverse problems, such as how to repair osteoarthritis in aging joints and how to prevent ransomware from being deployed against rural hospitals.

Renee Wegrzyn, ARPA-H director, said in a presentation at the Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research annual meeting that the agency’s mission is to “accelerate better health outcomes for everyone,” and that involves robust public-private partnerships, plus a nimble, fast-to-act mindset that moves away from traditional grant funding.[1]

“What’s really important about this mission statement is acceleration [and] brand-new emergent science. Sometimes, it’s putting together pieces that exist out there but have never been integrated. It’s really trying to speed up the timelines to help the general public and improve health outcomes,” Wegrzyn said.

ARPA-H, an independent entity under the NIH umbrella, was founded in March 2022. The agency supports cutting-edge research intended to drive biomedical and health breakthroughs, particularly in diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cancer. According to the Biden administration, ARPA-H was inspired by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which “has driven breakthrough advances for the [DoD] for more than 60 years.”[2]

Modeling ARPA-H on DARPA has given the agency “a way to function like a business—move very quickly and nimbly and decisively, which before ARPA-H had not been present in the health ecosystem in the federal government,” Wegrzyn said.

This document is only available to subscribers. Please log in or purchase access.