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Federal Officials Propose Creation of Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health

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Federal science and health officials plan to create a research agency within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop technologies that could help detect, prevent and treat cancer, infectious diseases and other illnesses, GCN reported Friday.

NIH Director Francis Collins, Eric Lander, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and other officials wrote in a commentary published in the journal Science that they intend to use the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as an inspiration to establish the proposed Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H).

ARPA-H would work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other agencies “to identify critical needs and opportunities and to partner on complex projects that interact, for example, with public health infrastructure or medical regulation,” the authors wrote.

They said the current administration requested $6.5 billion in funds for fiscal 2022 to establish ARPA-H, which should be led by a director for a single five-year term and “create breakthrough innovations that serve an entire ecosystem and all populations.”

“For ARPA-H to accomplish its goals, it will need to be provided by Congress with certain authorities parallel to those provided to DARPA, including the authority to recruit, attract with competitive pay, and quickly hire for a set term extraordinary [program managers],” they wrote.