In 2022, President Joe Biden (D) outlined his vision for a new kind of agency to speed medical breakthroughs to patients who urgently need them, calling for the creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H). The President reaffirmed that commitment with the release of the budget, which calls for additional funding for the agency. To mark this milestone, ARPA-H announced a series of firsts that serve the agency’s mission of accelerating better health outcomes, including support of the Administration’s Cancer Moonshot initiative. Specifically, ARPA-H is issuing its first funding opportunities through an Agency-wide Open Broad Agency Announcement (Open BAA) and an idea competition called the “ARPA-H Dash,” in addition to releasing its site selection strategy.
“ARPA-H was launched to advance bold and ambitious research programs to help drive breakthroughs in cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and other diseases. We are excited to take the next steps forward, carrying out a mission to accelerate and implement health innovation and high-impact solutions for everyone, including people who are underserved and often excluded from new advancements in health and technology,” said the United States Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.
Renee Wegrzyn, PhD, was appointed as the first director of ARPA-H in October 2022. She has been moving quickly in her first few months to lay the agency’s foundation and ensure the first cadre of program managers can hit the ground running to deliver on the President’s vision for speeding biomedical advances to reach all Americans.
“With today’s announcements, ARPA-H is officially open for business,” said Wegrzyn. “Through our Agency-wide Open BAA solicitation, site selection strategy, and ARPA-H Dash competition, we have opportunities to immediately start funding, opening the door to catalyze the entire health ecosystem – this is what everyone at ARPA-H came here to do, and we’re ready for it! I am committed to ensuring that ARPA-H is a place where innovative and bold ideas are encouraged, where creativity and pathfinding are rewarded, and where talent from across industry, academia, and government can come together to pursue cures that have evaded us.”
Broad Agency Announcement pursues innovative high-impact biomedical and health research proposals
ARPA-H opened its first Agency-wide Open BAA, seeking funding proposals for research aiming to improve health outcomes across patient populations, communities, diseases, and health conditions. The BAA calls for proposals to outline breakthrough research and technological advancements. Proposals should investigate unconventional approaches and challenge accepted assumptions to enable leaps forward in science, technology, systems, or related capabilities. ARPA-H also encourages concepts to advance the objectives of President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot, as well as more disease-agnostic approaches.
ARPA-H announces strategy for site selection
ARPA-H today announced the intention to establish sites in three geographic locations across the United States through the pursuit of a hub-and-spoke strategy, forming the foundation of a nationwide health network that seeks to advance ARPA-H’s mission to accelerate better health outcomes for everyone. Under the arrangement, ARPA-H will establish three hubs in various geographic locations, each supporting a network of partners, or spokes, that will actively support the dynamic needs of ARPA-H programs. Each hub site will form a center of gravity for key ARPA-H functions but will retain a light footprint.
Hub site No. 1 will be in the National Capital Region (NCR) and focus on stakeholder engagement and operations adjacent to the majority of our nation’s regulatory and legislative partners and many businesses—critical partners needed to support transitioning new health capabilities to reach everyone who needs them.
Key criteria for sites in the NCR include but are not limited to: space to accommodate 85–100 employees, scalable to accommodate agency growth; four to six conference rooms and collaborative spaces dedicated solely to ARPA-H; proximity to ARPA-H stakeholders and federal partner agencies for in-person collaboration; move-in ready; proximity to an airport that is accessible by public transportation and parking. Finally, the site, ideally, will also feature flexible co-working space that enables access to workspaces in other geographies to support remote ARPA-H workforce and activities. ARPA-H will directly select the final site using traditional federal leasing and acquisition procedures, seeking the best value for taxpayer dollars.
ARPA-H will solicit respondents to identify the geographic locations sites for Hubs No. 2 and 3, issuing a draft Request for Consortium Agreement (RCA) describing the approach to identify the unique locations and capabilities that best serve the ARPA-H mission.
Hub No. 2, a customer experience hub, will drive user testing, adoption, access, and trust of ARPA-H projects, taking a human-centered approach to design products and services that people need and want to use. It will also take a proactive approach to enhance clinical trials, reach representative patient populations, and capture outcomes data for future research.
Hub No. 3, an investor catalyst, will provide resources to help performers bring their ideas to market. All hubs will maintain a light physical footprint – housing a small number of ARPA-H team members alongside key personnel at each hub to support agency objectives.
ARPA-H will hold an informational proposers’ day on March 24 to review the draft solicitation, gather feedback, and answer questions from potential proposers. Details, including registration information, will appear in the special notice that will be submitted as part of the draft RCA.
ARPA-H expects to announce awards by early fall 2023, and the period of performance for each hub will be five years. The final announcement of the location of a stakeholder and operations hub in the NCR is also anticipated in this timeframe.
“ARPA-H Dash” competition seeks advanced health concepts
The ARPA-H Dash to Accelerate Health Outcomes, or “ARPA-H Dash,” is launching today to identify revolutionary evidence-based ideas to transform health. The ARPA-H Dash is a collaborative online competition open to bold thinkers across health and scientific communities and provides a simple, engaging, and impactful way to solicit the best ideas in the country to enhance the ARPA-H mission.
The ARPA-H Dash will use a bracket format and online discussion, debate, and voting to narrow submissions to quarterfinalists, semifinalists, finalists, and a champion idea during March and April 2023. Sixty-four submissions will be grouped within ARPA-H’s four strategic focus areas, which are Health Science Futures, Scalable Solutions, Proactive Health, and Resilient Systems. A grand prize of $15,000 will be awarded to the final winner. Participants who select the most winners in head-to-head comparisons are eligible for prizes.
Nominations for the ARPA-H Dash will be accepted through an online portal for review between March 29 and April 7, 2023. Each submission should include a piece of evidence with citation published after January 1, 2018, a short descriptive title for display in the brackets, identification of which ARPA-H focus area is targeted for transformation, and answers to three questions about the proposed transformation.