NIGMS to Co-Host ARPA-H Listening Session

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UPDATE: The videocast of the ARPA-H session on August 4 is now available.

President Biden recently called for the establishment of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) to improve our capabilities to speed research that can improve the health of all Americans. The proposed mission of ARPA-H could include investments in breakthrough technologies and broadly applicable platforms, resources, and solutions that can’t be readily accomplished through traditional research or commercial activity. Such innovations could transform important areas of medicine and health for the benefit of all patients.

NIH and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy have organized a series of listening sessions with patient advocacy groups, industry, scientific professional organizations, and other stakeholders to get feedback in planning for this new agency. Each session is tailored to a specific group.   

As a valued member of the NIGMS community, you’re invited to join the upcoming listening session that I’m co-hosting with Joni Rutter, acting director of NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences:

Advocates for Biomedical and Translational Research and General Medicine
Wednesday, August 4, 2:00-3:15 p.m. ET

You can register for this Zoom event here. If you’re unable to attend live, all of the sessions will be recorded and available for future viewing.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on ARPA-H.

One Reply to “NIGMS to Co-Host ARPA-H Listening Session”

  1. We know many instances of physics and chemistry advances to produce a breakthrough in biology and medicine. The appearance of an optical microscope, X-rays, electron microscopy, mass-spectrometry are examples. We can ask what development in basic physics, chemistry, or instrumentation would produce revolutionary changes in biology and medicine. In the preface to “What is life?” (1944) paper Ervin Schrödinger asked: ” How can the events in space and time which take place within the spatial boundary of a living organism be accounted for by physics and chemistry”? At the time, the main interest was to understand the transfer of genetics information, and this was successfully resolved by what is now is the main dogma of cell biochemistry: DNA- RNA – protein synthesis. Now we have the challenge to understand how the cell complex machinery works and makes decisions in response to the environment and signaling of other cells and organisms. The estimate of the number of “elemental chemical operations “ in a cell from the cell heat production and the energy of one ATF-ADF transaction gives us up to 108 operations per second. A large number of DNA sequences, variants of enzymes, proteins, physical and chemical processes involved in self-regulation are causing people to talk about the “infinite complexity” of a single cell and the possible “intelligent design” of life. As the 1944 paper continues: “The obvious inability the present-day physics and chemistry to account for such events is no reason at all for doubting that they can be accounted for by those sciences”. This grand challenge is still ahead of us. We need new techniques to see the cell process in real-time. We have great successes in genetics, gene therapy, RNA vaccines- while using simplified models for complex live interaction. Protein-protein, protein – DNA, protein-ligand, olfactory sensor-molecule interaction – all include interactions through water molecules and clusters, and mechanical, and electromagnetic interactions. Electromagnetic interactions are not local: all processes inside one cell and neighboring cells are mutually interacting. We can build many hypotheses on how it works, but it is better to have a tool to see the live-cell operation in more detail.

    The development of fast non-invasive tools for studying processes in live cells in real-time is still an extremely challenging task. But a lot of progress in technology and experimental techniques is achieved since Schrödinger’s paper was written back in 1944. We can now handle a large rate of events – like in high-energy and particle physics experiments. Energies of life-important interactions are of the order of 300 K, so they can be accessed with Infra-Red spectroscopy. IR spectral region is accessible indirectly with a combinatory scattering of visible light, and Raman confocal microscopy is the powerhouse of present-day cell chemical imaging. As fast and efficient IR photon detectors are appearing, we can exploit direct IR photonic techniques. Monitoring live cell processes are becoming feasible. It can be named an interdisciplinary physics and biology challenge. Moreover, a closer look at the operation of real molecular motors and other “close to quantum” cell processes may provide new insight into the physics of complex quantum systems. So, we have to take on this challenge.

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