ARPA-H: Accelerating biomedical breakthroughs

Science
09 July 2021 Vol 373, Issue 6551
http://www.sciencemag.org/current.dtl

 

Policy Forum
ARPA-H: Accelerating biomedical breakthroughs
By Francis S. Collins, Tara A. Schwetz, Lawrence A. Tabak, Eric S. Lander
Science09 Jul 2021 : 165-167 Restricted Access
A DARPA-like culture at NIH can drive biomedical and health advances
Summary
The biomedical research ecosystem has delivered advances that not long ago would have been inconceivable, exemplified by highly effective COVID-19 vaccines developed by global partners and approved in less than a year. The United States stands at a moment of unprecedented scientific promise and is challenged to ask: What more can we do to accelerate the pace of breakthroughs to transform medicine and health? Toward that end, President Biden recently proposed to create a new entity, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) “to develop breakthroughs—to prevent, detect, and treat diseases like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cancer,” requesting $6.5 billion in the fiscal year 2022 budget (1). The idea is inspired by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which follows a flexible and nimble strategy, undeterred by the possibility of failure, and has driven breakthrough advances for the Department of Defense (DOD) for more than 60 years. To design ARPA-H, it is critical to understand what is working well within the biomedical ecosystem, where there are crucial gaps, and the key principles of DARPA’s success.