Scientists detail vision for new federal research agency

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Eric Lander, PhD, and National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, have released new details about their vision for an advanced health research agency.

President Joe Biden called for the creation of such an agency in April, and a $6.5 billion fiscal year 2022 budget request has been submitted to HHS to launch it.

The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health would be dedicated to developing "breakthrough" cancer treatments, as well as treatments for other diseases such as Alzheimer's and diabetes.

In a commentary published June 22 in Science, Drs. Lander and Collins write that the new agency would "accelerate biomedical innovation and adoption of technologies and approaches to revolutionize healthcare and medicine."

They said the research agency is inspired by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a branch of the U.S. Defense Department, and should have a broad-ranging focus, "from molecular to societal."

Drs. Lander and Collins support housing the research agency within the National Institutes of Health, rather than as a standalone entity, partially because the goals of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health "fall squarely within NIH's mission." 

They said the agency will also need to draw on biomedical and health knowledge, expertise and activities at the National Institutes of Health. 

But some medical experts and lawmakers say the research agency should stand alone within HHS for the most successful innovation, according to The Washington Post

"By and large, it's a conservative type of evaluation of innovation," David Walt, PhD, a chemical biologist at Harvard University and former chair of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's advisory council,told the newspaper of National Institutes of Health practices. "It's a process that requires a lot of consensus from people with very different backgrounds, and there's regression toward the mean with respect to things that are incredibly innovative — there's almost always a naysayer in the room."

Read the full Post article here. Read the full commentary by Drs. Lander and Collins here

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