Friday, February 19, 2021

HARPA: Proposing a Multi-Billion Dollar Applied Medical Research Agency

You may start hearing about the abbreviation HARPA - modeled on DARPA, a "HARPA" would be a large-scale national research agency modeled on applied healthcare research.  The idea is that this big middle area of healthcare is missing out in our current mix of (A) NIH funding, on the one hand, and (B) industrial for-profit funding, on the other.   You'll also see the abbreviation ARPA-H, modeled on ARPA-E, the existing federal energy research agency.

See an article appearing February 12, 2021, in Fast Company online - here.   The summary is, "The Biden administration is contemplating creating a research agency to help fund breakthroughs that aren’t economically viable for big health and pharmaceutical companies. Meet HARPA."  Potentially, tens of billions could flow through "HARPA" as part of Biden's plan to spend as much as $300B on federal research during his administration.

One of the advocates is Mike Stebbins, formerly on the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).  "Innovations in biomedical research are right now largely funded by the private sector or through organizations like the NIH...The problem is you’ve only got a $40 billion budget for the NIH annually, and they fund very little in the way of research on products.”

For back story, see a August 2019 article in WaPo here.  See advocacy on the topic from the Wright Foundation, here, with a 30-minute video and special website here.


Readers interested in this topic might also enjoy a recent blog on a USC white paper on amped-up federal health technology assessment - here.

A side note, last fall CMS opened a special office to deal with problems and dilemmas in technology coding and pricing in healthcare - under Jason Bennett, here.  I see situations all the time when useful products fall aside from VC's (and aren't funded by NIH) because of illogic, biases, and gaps in the reimbursement system we have now.