Engineering of Immune Cells Inside the Body

The Big Question

What if your own immune system could manufacture cures for devastating diseases?

The Problem 

Engineered cell therapies are complex to make, take weeks to manufacture, can only be administered at a small number of specialized hospital facilities, and can cost up to one hundred thousand dollars to produce one dose. Only a handful of cell therapies have won approval, and none in solid tumors or other immune system disorders.

The Current State

Researchers are working to improve immune-modifying therapies and apply them to broader conditions. Advances in cell-specific targeting and gene delivery could make a more precise type of therapeutic possible. Another approach is substituting patient harvested immune cells with healthy donor ones to create an off-the-shelf cell therapy. Even still, the manufacturing challenges inherent to current cell engineering methods mean the treatment is very expensive, limiting its use to the sickest patients and available only at a few treatment centers. 

The Challenge

The Engineering of Immune Cells Inside the Body, or EMBODY, program aims to develop an adaptable, low-cost platform where cells in the body are given instructions to adjust their behavior. By moving the creation of specially trained immune cells out of the lab and in vivo, this platform could eliminate the time, cost, and access hurdles faced by traditional immune cell therapy manufacturing.  

Moreover, EMBODY is not limited to a single disease or condition. It aims to employ these new technologies to treat various immune system disorders, including chronic autoimmune diseases, hard-to-treat infections, and solid tumor cancers. 

The Solution

To make immune therapies more affordable, easily accessible at any U.S. hospital, and to eliminate the multi-week wait time, EMBODY will focus on two major technical areas. Technical area 1 encompasses cell-specific delivery methods and development of programmable and controllable genetic material. Technical area 2 supports advanced production and validation methods, including reducing manufacturing cost, improving quality control, and developing predictive preclinical models of the human immune system. 


EMBODY aims to bring together groups often not focused on the same problem, including experts from cell and gene therapy, manufacturing, preclinical development, and clinical research, to incentivize solutions and advance novel products.


EMBODY Innovative Solutions Opening

Solution Summary due date: Closed

Proposal due date: Closed

Proposers' Day

Virtual Proposers' Day: April 18, 2024, 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM ET

Proposers' Day registration is closed.

Proposers' Day recording


ARPA-H anticipates that teaming will be necessary to achieve the goals of EMBODY. Prospective performers are encouraged to form teams with varied technical expertise to submit a research proposal. To facilitate this process, we have created a teaming page where prospective performers can share their profiles and learn more about other interested parties. 

Teaming Profiles