Endocrine Society Discusses ARPA-H with Congress, NIH, and OSTP

When President Joe Biden’s budget for fiscal year 2022 was introduced this summer, many biomedical research advocates took note of a new line item that would direct $6.5 billion over three years to a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) to be housed at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). While we were enthusiastic about the prospect of a significant new funding stream dedicated to important problems in biomedical research, there still are many open questions about how the new agency would operate and intersect with researchers and projects already funded by the NIH.

In our letter to Congress, and during the meetings with the NIH and OSTP, we urged ARPA-H leadership to avoid implementing features that would limit the pool of participating researchers, such as onerous administrative requirements.

The Biden administration, as well as the NIH and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) have shared some concepts reflecting their overarching vision for the program, which will borrow from the model used by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). However, they recognize that stakeholder engagement and mutual understanding will be critical to the success of this endeavor in the long run. In July and August, the NIH and OSTP convened a series of meetings to hear from the community about our priorities and potential concerns. Congressional sponsors of authorizing language for ARPA-H also issued a Request for Information (RFI) with a series of questions for stakeholder input. The Endocrine Society has been engaged early and throughout the process as ARPA-H takes shape. Our Research Affairs and Advocacy and Public Outreach Core Committees met in June to discuss the ARPA-H proposal and respond to the RFI. We were also invited to present our perspective at two meetings with the NIH and OSTP to discuss research opportunities that ARPA-H might be able to address.

In our letter to Congress, and during the meetings with the NIH and OSTP, we urged ARPA-H leadership to avoid implementing features that would limit the pool of participating researchers, such as onerous administrative requirements. We also shared opportunities in endocrine research, including cancer, diabetes, and environmental health, that would benefit from a new funding model and with project objectives similar to DARPA. Importantly, we argued that funding decisions at ARPA-H should avoid excessive overlap with NIH projects, and that they need to preserve and grow the paylines for investigator-initiated basic and clinical research through regular annual appropriations. We strongly advocated that the NIH should not be required to contribute significant financial resources to ARPA-H projects. Finally, we urged leadership to design ARPA-H to incorporate diverse perspectives, with particular attention to groups that have been historically underrepresented in biomedical research, throughout the planning and execution of projects.

The Endocrine Society has been engaged early and throughout the process as ARPA-H takes shape. Our Research Affairs and Advocacy and Public Outreach Core Committees met in June to discuss the ARPA-H proposal and respond to the RFI. We were also invited to present our perspective at two meetings with the NIH and OSTP to discuss research opportunities that ARPA-H might be able to address.

There is still a long road ahead for ARPA-H to become law, but our members will stay involved to ensure that this new program helps advance our Society’s research and public health priorities. We will share new developments in Endocrine News as we learn more, and we encourage members to also explore the NIH ARPA-H events page  for additional information and opportunities to share your perspective.

 

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