The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced the official launch of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (or ARPA-H), which will sit within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as an independent entity.

In a notice posted to the Federal Register today, HHS said the necessary steps to create the new organization took effect on May 24. ARPA-H will lead “high-risk, high-reward biomedical and health research,” according to the notice.

The idea for ARPA-H is based on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is a research and development agency within the Department of Defense, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) organization within the Department of Energy.

President Biden made ARPA-H official through the fiscal year 2022 omnibus appropriations bill, which included $1 billion to create the new agency.

During a May 2021 hearing to discuss the establishment of ARPA-H, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra explained by having a separate agency dedicated to advanced disease research within NIH, ARPA-H will be able to “accelerate” health breakthroughs and build upon NIH’s existing research portfolio.

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In a separate press release, HHS announced that Adam H. Russell, chief scientist at the University of Maryland’s Applied Research Laboratory for Intelligence and Security, will serve as the acting deputy director of ARPA-H. Russell also served at DARPA for over four years as a program manager.

“We are ecstatic that Dr. Adam Russell has accepted the challenge to help launch ARPA-H, President Biden’s bold, new endeavor to support ambitious and potentially transformational health research in this country,” said Secretary Becerra. “ARPA-H will have a singular purpose: to drive breakthroughs in health, including the prevention, detection, and treatment of diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.