ARPA-H projects aim to develop novel cancer technologies


To advance President Biden’s Unity Agenda, Biden-Harris Administration announces nearly $115 million in new funding for cutting edge research projects in support of Cancer Moonshot objectives

Three new ARPA-H projects aim to develop novel technologies for early detection and treatment of cancers

Today, the Biden-Harris Administration is announcing the launch of three major projects funded under agreements with the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health’s (ARPA-H) for radical new ways to detect and treat cancer. These research projects represent the Agency’s commitment to supporting Cancer Moonshot℠ goals of decreasing cancer deaths and improving the quality of life for patients. Accelerating the fight against cancer is a core component of the President’s Unity Agenda, a set of priorities that Americans from every walk of life can support. Today’s announcement helps advance the Agenda, including the work of the Cancer Moonshot, specifically by helping to develop novel technologies for early detection and treatment of cancers.

“ARPA-H is paving the way for unprecedented and groundbreaking research on cancer. This work will be a pillar in this Administration’s ambitious and important goal to cut the cancer death rate in half in 25 years,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.

Two of the awards will work toward the development of new ways to treat cancer. Rice University in Houston, Texas plans to develop a minimally invasive implant to sense and respond with specific doses of medicine to help the body better respond to cancer treatments. With up to $45 million to support the research, the team will seek to develop the Targeted Hybrid Oncotherapeutic Regulation (THOR) platform, a groundbreaking method to help boost cancer therapy response rates in peritoneal and solid tumors.

The Synthetic Programmable bacteria for Immune-directed Killing in tumor Environments (SPIKEs) project, led by a team at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri, aims to develop an inexpensive and safe therapy using bacteria specifically selected for tumor-targeting. Through SPIKEs, researchers intend to engineer bacteria that can recruit and regulate tumor-targeting immune cells, boosting the body’s ability to fight off cancer without side-effects from traditional medications. Up to $19 million is allocated towards SPIKEs.

An additional project, with up to $50 million in potential funding inclusive of options, seeks to map cancer cell biomarkers to drastically improve multi-cancer early detection (MCED) and streamline clinical intervention when tumors are still small. Led by the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia, the Cancer and Organ Degradome Atlas (CODA) project aims to understand the cellular profiles unique to diseased cancer cells. The CODA platform intends to develop a suite of biosensor tools that can reliably recognize a range of cancer-specific markers and, ultimately, produce a highly precise, accurate, and cost-effective MCED test that can identify common cancers when they are most treatable.

“At ARPA-H, we recognize the urgency of the health challenges facing cancer patients and their families and we are committed to funding truly transformative research that can improve health outcomes for everyone,” said ARPA-H Director Renee Wegrzyn, Ph.D. “With these awards, we hope to see crucial advancements in patient-tailored therapies, better and earlier tumor detection methods, and cell therapies that can help the immune system target cancer cells for destruction.”

ARPA-H’s Open BAA seeks transformative ideas for health research or technology breakthroughs. Continued support of each award is contingent on projects meeting certain milestones. The Open BAA began accepting abstracts in March 2023 and is open until March 2024. Future projects will be funded on a rolling basis. To learn more about projects as they are awarded, visit the awardee page.