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A Peek Inside ARPA-H’s First Funding Opportunities for Industry

The agency is eying solutions for novel methods to improve patient health.

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A Peek Inside ARPA-H's First Funding Opportunities for Industry
Photo Credit: PopTika/Shutterstock

It’s been a little over a year since the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) formed, and armed with a $2.5 billion budget, it’s already charting a path to improve health outcomes with its first funding opportunities through four focus areas.

ARPA-H set out a new endeavor to break the mold of how the government typically addresses fundamental research and projects in the U.S. The agency started out by focusing on the high risk, high reward sectors within the health ecosystem, said Deputy Director Susan Coller Monarez.

“One of the things that drives us as we work in our day-to-day operations within our agency is this constant drive for ‘imagine if.’ Imagine if we had a better world, and imagine if we could all have improved health,” said Monarez at a recent FCW event.

“And we really push ourselves to say, you know, imagine if we had affordable custom cancer vaccines for everyone, imagine if we could 3D bio-print replacements for damaged organs. Imagine if we had nano robotic surgery delivered by a pill and for us these aren’t abstract visionary, maybe we can do it over the horizon type concepts we anchor ourselves and how would we do this? What would it take for us to be able to actually create a program that would drive toward these solutions? And that is that is the thrust of everything that we’re doing within our agency,” Monarez said.

Through an open broad agency announcement (Open BAA) — a government acquisition tool used for basic and applied research instead of specific solutions — the agency is seeking over the next year “revolutionary ideas” in four areas:

  • Health science futures: tools and platforms to tackle a broad range of disease.
  • Scalable solutions: improve health care access and affordability.
  • Proactive health: treatments to improve health and wellness.
  • Resilient systems: enhance stability and reliability in times of crises.

“This is something that we’re super excited about. We are hoping that we get the really brilliant transformational, innovative ideas being submitted to our agency and that we can push out some great funding in the coming months and really start to drive some of these products that we know are going to transform the health ecosystem,” Monarez said.

The BAA also lists additional areas of interest including quantitative measurements of health outcomes, human-centered design for health innovations, participatory research and advances in ethical, legal and societal implications. The funding opportunities will be awarded on a rolling basis over the next year, and bidders can expect the total process to take 90 days from submission to selection, according to ARPA-H’s notice.

Even before the funding announcement, the agency has been busy with a number of other efforts.

The agency concurrently launched its first online competition called the ARPA-H Dash to Accelerate Health Outcomes, or ARPA-H Dash, which seeks submissions for ideas toward its four focus areas with a $15,000 grand prize awarded May 16.

“It’s a way for people to contribute their idea in a really fun type bracket head-to-head competition very similar to another very famous competition that just took place in March,” Monarez said.

The agency also is weighing proposals for establishing three new hubs across the country: one in the national capital region, one being a customer experience hub, and the third being an investor catalyst. Awards are expected in the fall.

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