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ARPA-H launches first program

ARPA-H is breaking the mold

ARPA-H is a bottoms-up agency that lets innovative ideas – and the Program Managers who pitch those ideas – drive investment decisions. At full build-out, ARPA-H will have roughly 100 Program Managers who will be responsible for program development and oversight. To encourage innovation and a fresh infusion of new ideas, many key leadership positions at ARPA-H will be term limited, including the Director of ARPA-H, the Office Directors, and Program Managers (max. 5-6 years). In practical terms, this means that all funded projects must have an exit strategy because the programs ARPA-H funds today will not be the programs ARPA-H funds 5 years from now.

As the Agency ramps up operation over Summer 2023, it anticipates releasing 2-3 Broad Agency Announcements (BAA)s per month. We can expect to see more funding opportunity releases – all with one common thread: to break the mold on how fundamental research and commercial products deliver healthcare solutions to the country. Proposals that represent only an incremental advance from the current state will be considered outside the scope of the ARPA-H mission.

Proposers’ Day: What an observer learned

On June 15, the NITRO program hosted a Proposers’ Day. These meetings are typically held shortly after the release of a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA). Participation is not a requirement for funding consideration, but highly recommended for the exposure it offers to potential proposers and for the insights it provides into the ARPA-H portfolio.

Click here to view the Agency’s presentation, which kicked-off the day’s events. The rest of the day was dedicated to Lightning Talks and sidebar conversations with ARPA-H staff. Lightning Talks give potential performers an opportunity to communicate their capabilities to a broader audience with an eye toward networking and potential teaming arrangements. A limited number of sidebar meetings are available to participants and must be advance scheduled when registering for a Proposers’ Day. These are private meetings between potential proposers and Government representatives.

NITRO Proposers’ Day takeaways:

  • ARPA-H staff do not endorse Lightning Talks nor do they facilitate teaming arrangements. Responsibility for identifying collaborators with complementary expertise and establishing those teaming partnerships is left up to the individual. Proposers Days are one vehicle for forging potential partnerships.
  • Program Managers will operate with significant independence. Program Managers not only develop Broad Agency Announcements (BAAs), review proposals, and make final funding decisions, they will also closely monitor all funded projects and have the authority to amend scopes, when necessary, and to pull funding from projects if milestones are not being met.
  • ARPA-H programs will be deliverable-driven. Funded projects will be subject to various Go/No-Go checkpoints throughout their life cycle. Timelines will be aggressive – and checkpoints articulated in the BAA will be non-negotiable. Projects are expected to graduate from the program and will not receive follow-on funding beyond the initial award.
  • ARPA-H is committed to equitable healthcare access. All programs will place a strong emphasis upon equity requirements. By way of example, the NITRO BAA mandates that each performer include an Equity Officer within their scope of work. This full-time position will establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the study team, convene patient listening sessions, and liaise with ARPA-H and its partners throughout the life of the project. Partners include insurance carriers, other federal agencies, and patient advocacy groups.
  • Many ARPA-H programs will not have an award ceiling. Price analysis will be performed on proposals to ensure the reasonableness of the cost proposal. In addition, reviewers will consider the proposed intellectual property (IP) rights structure and its potential impact on the Government’s ability to transition the technology.
  • ARPA-H will not utilize study sections to review proposals and will not rank proposals. Proposals will be reviewed individually by three (3) individuals – the Program Manager and two government reviewers subject to nondisclosure agreements (NDAs). Each proposal will be evaluated on its own merits based on its unique scope of work. Proposers should not expect to receive written feedback/critiques on their submissions.
  • ARPA-H programs will not utilize grant agreements. The Agency will primarily utilize cooperative agreements and Other Transactions (OTs). These instruments are not subject to Federal Acquisition Regulations (FARs), which gives Program Managers the flexibility to negotiate terms and conditions that are mutually beneficial for the government and performers. Within their proposal, applicants will be expected to state which type of awarding instrument would be their preferred awarding mechanism. The Agency has final say on the type of awarding instrument utilized, but will take the applicant’s concerns into consideration.

Keep informed

To get the latest news on ARPA-H, including funding opportunities, check out Research Development’s Weekly Funding Opportunities email. You can also sign-up to receive funding opportunities and other news directly from ARPA-H by clicking here (scroll to the bottom of the page and “enter your email to subscribe”).

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