With the debut of a Public Service Announcement (PSA), The Suzanne Wright Foundation has launched a national campaign for HARPA, a Health Advanced Research Projects Agency, whose objective is to lead the development of new capabilities in biomedical research. Modeled after DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, HARPA would leverage existing federal research assets, and the technologies of the private sector, to drive medical breakthroughs for diseases that have not benefitted from the current system. There are more than 9,000 known human diseases, yet there are treatments for only 500 of them.
“There has been no improvement in the mortality rate of pancreatic cancer in more than forty years. We have no early detection tools or curative treatments,” said Bob Wright, Founder of The Suzanne Wright Foundation. “Pancreatic cancer is one example of the limitations of the current system to address deadly diseases with any urgency. HARPA is a bold new approach that would go beyond basic research to build technologies to cure disease.”
In commenting on HARPA’s potential, Dr. Geoffrey Ling, Founder and Former Director of the DARPA Biotech Office said, “DARPA is the gold standard for innovation, accountability, and results. HARPA would employ DARPA’s mission-oriented approach with aggressive timetables to drive medical breakthroughs and address critical health problems facing Americans. It would leverage the basic science foundations laid by other federal agencies to develop the new diagnosis, the new cure, the new treatment.”
DARPA was established in 1958, during the space race, to leverage the remarkable scientific and engineering breakthroughs occurring throughout the United States, and bring them together to solve specific problems. DARPA programs have since developed transformational technologies for the Department of Defense, including the Internet, GPS navigation, stealth technology, and robotic prostheses.
The United States has a tremendous foundation of scientific and technical knowledge built by federal research agencies and the private sector. Massive investments in biotech, supercomputing, big data, and artificial intelligence offer more promise than ever in disease detection, diagnosis, and treatment.