ARPA-H launches BREATHE to monitor and improve indoor air quality


ARPA-H launches BREATHE to create next-generation building systems that monitor and improve indoor air quality 

The program aims to reduce harmful pathogens and allergens in buildings nationwide to ensure indoor air is always safe and healthy 

Today, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) launched the Building Resilient Environments for Air and Total HEalth (BREATHE) program to create a scalable platform to improve indoor air quality across the country. Poor indoor air quality is a leading cause of preventable diseases like the flu and other respiratory illnesses. Airborne disease-causing pathogens and allergens can have a significant effect on people’s health, especially children, the elderly, and those living with chronic illnesses or are otherwise susceptible.  

BREATHE aims to drive the next generation of smart buildings by developing integrated systems that will provide continual assessment, measurement, and reporting of indoor air quality and deploy real-time interventions, such as extra ventilation or disinfection, to reduce airborne threats to human health. If successful, BREATHE will significantly improve the ability to forecast emerging health threats and reduce respiratory disease transmission, a risk that is substantially heightened indoors. 

“Even though Americans spend 90% of their lives indoors, we do more to monitor and reduce health threats from the air we breathe outside than we do inside,” said BREATHE Program Manager Jessica Green. “As we experienced through the pandemic, having the ability to monitor, track, and improve the air we breathe indoors is urgently needed. BREATHE aims to revolutionize public health by transforming our ability to eliminate indoor air threats.” 

To build this scalable platform, BREATHE will engage with performers from across a range of expertise, including molecular diagnostic testing and biosensor instrument developers, data analysts, risk assessment software developers, property management firms, building automation system providers, healthcare systems and hospital networks, long-term care facility operators, and others. These teams will build on current smart building technology, designed for comfort and energy efficiency, to employ similar approaches to tackle pathogens and allergens in the air.  

Through the forthcoming Program Solicitation, BREATHE requests performers to form teams and submit proposals on three technical areas: creating indoor air biosensors to detect airborne biothreats rapidly; developing respiratory risk assessment software to determine whether health impacts are likely; and optimizing building controls for enhanced health and energy efficiency. 

Multiple awards under the Program Solicitation are anticipated. Resources available will depend on the quality of the proposals received and the availability of funds. Learn more about BREATHE on its program page, including information about the Special Notice and registration for Proposers’ Day in Oakland, Calif. on May 2, 2024.