This week, ARPA-H made history by awarding up to $181 million to projects that tackle many of the country’s most pressing health challenges, including heart disease, cancer, and infectious disease.

Ending cancer as we know it. The agency again pushed Cancer Moonshot℠ goals forward by awarding up to $114 million across three projects to research radical new ways to treat and detect.

  • Two of the projects will focus on developing new ways to treat cancer, including up to $45 million to a team at Rice University to develop a minimally invasive implant that senses and responds with a specific treatment, and up to $19 million to a team at the University of Missouri to develop an inexpensive and safe therapy using bacteria specifically selected for tumor-targeting.
  • A third project for up to $50 million, led by the Georgia Institute of Technology, aims to map cancer cell biomarkers to drastically improve multi-cancer early detection and streamline clinical intervention when tumors are still small.

The announcements provide more details on the $240 million in cancer-related funding announced at a White House Cancer Cabinet meeting earlier this month.

  • Watch: ARPA-H Director Dr. Renee Wegrzyn and Deputy Assistant to the President for the Cancer Moonshot Dr. Danielle Carnival discuss ARPA-H’s role in ending cancer as we know it.

Squashing superbugs. ARPA-H made its biggest funding award to date, providing up to $104 million to Harvard Medical School to address anti-microbial resistance or “superbugs.”

  • The project will develop technology that identifies bacteria that can evade antibiotic treatments and quickly finds the right compound to treat a specific infection. The goal is to create a platform that can be easily employed at any hospital or clinic and would advance U.S. government efforts on surveillance and stewardship.

“Antibiotic resistance is an urgent and growing threat, and we do not currently have the tools we need to combat it. We must combine better stewardship of antibiotics with novel technologies in order to save lives – exactly what this award will do,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.

Read more about ARPA-H’s efforts to combat antimicrobial resistance.  

Printing organs … on-demand. Despite recent advances in organ transplants, more than 100,000 people in the United States are currently waiting for organs like hearts or kidneys. More than 6,000 of these patients die each year due to lack of access to compatible organs.

ARPA-H began its efforts to address this critical gap by providing up to $26 million to a team at Stanford University to develop technology to 3D-print organs on demand, beginning with a human heart.

Read more about ARPA-H’s efforts to 3D print organs.

Improving Immunity. The thymus is critical to normal immune cell development by testing out every single T-cell to ensure they provide proper immune protection. Currently, more than 10,000 new patients are diagnosed every year with a thymus disorder, sometimes due to age, but often from congenital or cancer treatments.

The agency announced up to $37 million in funding to the Thymus Rejuvenation project—led by Thymmune Therapeutics—with the aim of using engineered cells to restore damaged non-functional thymus tissue and improve immune function.

Read more about the Thymus Rejuvenation project


ARPA-H launches nationwide health innovation network

On September 26, 2023 the agency unveiled ARPANET-H: a nationwide “hub-and-spoke” health innovation network anchored by ARPA-H regional hubs, including a Customer Experience Hub based in Dallas, Texas; an Investor Catalyst Hub based in the greater Boston area, each with a consortium of spokes at sites around the country.  A third hub will be located in the National Capital Region.

“We are establishing the foundation for an ambitious 50-state network to support health innovation across the entire Nation,” said ARPA-H Director Renee Wegrzyn, Ph.D. Through this nationwide hub-and-spoke network, ARPANET-H will enable ARPA-H to create breakthrough capabilities and achieve health outcomes for everyone that are accessible, tangible, and measurably better.”

More information about ARPANET-H can be found on our website or check out coverage in the Boston Business Journal and Dallas Morning News.


Elsewhere in the ARPAsphere:

In case you missed it: ARPA-H Director Dr. Renee Wegrzyn was recognized as a leading Innovator on the TIME100 Next list, which recognizes emerging leaders across business, entertainment, sports, politics, health, science and activism, and more.

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