What is ARPA-H? How Will it Fund Focused Ultrasound Research?

Written by Jessica Foley, PhD

For years, many in the biomedical research community have been advocating for the creation of an organization like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to foster the advancement of truly innovative discoveries and technologies in healthcare. President Biden began calling for the creation of such an agency during his 2020 campaign, and Congress subsequently took action. In March 2022, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) was officially approved and signed into law.  

The mission of ARPA-H is to accelerate better health outcomes for everyone. The agency funds high-potential, high-impact biomedical and health research toward innovative solutions that have the potential to advance areas of medicine that cannot readily be accomplished through traditional research or commercial activity. ARPA-H supports research projects from a wide variety of groups, including academia, private industry, and the government. Its budget is approved by the US Congress as part of the federal budget appropriations process. Since inception, ARPA-H has been allocated $2.5 billion.  

ARPA-H recently announced its first two funding opportunities (described in more detail below): a Broad Agency Announcement and its first field-specific program, NITRO, which seeks solutions for treating bone and joint damage from osteoarthritis. 

It is important for the focused ultrasound community to engage early – and often – with this new agency before it becomes swamped with proposals. The initial application process only requires a brief abstract and, unlike most other federal funding proposals (e.g., NIH), extensive data are not needed. An innovative and impactful idea can be enough.  

Broad Agency Announcement

The Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) is an agency-wide initiative that is seeking funding proposals for revolutionary research that can improve health outcomes across patient populations, communities, diseases, and health conditions. ARPA-H indicates that the BAA is a better fit for research and development (R&D) projects than other funding sources.  

Successful proposals will outline research to drive breakthroughs and technological advancements that align with ARPA-H’s four initial focus areas: health science futures, scalable solutions, proactive health, and resilient systems.  

This BAA will accept rolling submissions for one year, with a final deadline of March 14, 2024, at 3:00 pm Eastern. There is no funding limit for individual awards. To apply, researchers must submit a brief, three-page abstract; then, the most promising projects are selected to complete a more inclusive proposal. Rumor has it that ARPA-H has not received many abstract submissions to date, so this is a great opportunity for the focused ultrasound community to have our ideas noticed.  

For more information on the BAA and eligibility, download these two documents, which were presented as part of ARPA-H’s virtual Proposer’s Day.  

Novel Innovations for Tissue Regeneration in Osteoarthritis (NITRO) 

ARPA-H plans to fund several field-specific programs. Its first such initiative, “Novel Innovations for Tissue Regeneration in Osteoarthritis (NITRO),” aims to address current issues surrounding osteoarthritis treatment by developing new ways of helping the human body repair its own joints. The ARPA-H site states there are three technical areas of focus: injectable bone regeneratives, injectable cartilage regeneratives, and replacement joints built from human cells. 

We encourage you to consider how your work could be applicable to this field. The deadline to submit an abstract for this initiative is 5:00 pm Eastern on June 23, 2023

How to Apply for ARPA-H Funding 

Submit project proposals and abstracts via the NIH electronic Contract Proposal Submission (eCPS) website. To locate relevant opportunities, including the BAA and NITRO, select “ARPA-H” in the “Institute” dropdown menu. Registration is required.  

Become a Program Manager

ARPA-H programs are overseen by program managers, who are responsible for the full program lifecycle. According to the agency, “A program manager champions a core idea to improve health, frames the challenge, and awards projects to new multidisciplinary teams, with measurement and evaluation conducted throughout the process to ensure the best solutions advance. Program managers coach program performers through obstacles and efficiently define and recognize progress, success, and failure.”

We encourage anyone in our community who has an ambitious idea and is passionate about a vision for revolutionary solutions to solve a critical health problem to apply to become an ARPA-H program manager.

Stay Informed 

Everyone in the focused ultrasound community should consider how their work can apply to the two ARPA-H programs – and future ones. To learn about new programs as they are announced, please subscribe to the ARPA-H mailing list. You can do so at the bottom of their website.  

As the Foundation learns more, we will keep the community abreast of new funding opportunities.