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ARPA-H Funding Opportunities | May 2024

(BREATHE) Building Resilient Environments for Air and Total Health ARPA-H

The Big Question: What if indoor air was always safe and healthy?

The Problem: Most people spend more than 90% of their lives inside buildings, and the air we breathe indoors plays a critical role in shaping human health, productivity, well-being, and learning. Respiratory infections like the flu and pneumonia are a leading cause of death in the U.S. and globally, and the risk of airborne infection transmission is greater indoors. Asthma and allergies, which can significantly impact quality of life, are also associated with poor indoor air quality.

The Current State: Over a century ago, water treatment and sewer systems revolutionized public health, but modern buildings still need similar systems for monitoring and improving indoor air quality. The air in the places we live, work, and learn can contain unhealthy levels of viruses, bacteria, fungi, pollen and other bioaerosols. Smart building systems allow for some real-time adjustments, mostly related to occupant comfort and energy use, but they don’t provide air quality monitoring or changes related to occupant health.

The Challenge :The Building Resilient Environments for Air and Total HEalth (BREATHE) program envisions smart building systems that monitor and respond to changes in indoor air quality. Green buildings balance thermal comfort and energy efficiency and BREATHE aims to employ similar approaches to handle indoor pathogen and allergen exposure. To succeed, BREATHE will need to develop tools to sense airborne bioaerosols, assess indoor air quality exposure risk, and deliver cost-effective building interventions to improve human health.

The Solution: BREATHE aims to revolutionize public health by advancing our ability to monitor and improve indoor air quality and forecast emerging health threats. To create a scalable system capable of monitoring and managing indoor air, BREATHE will engage performers across a range of expertise, including molecular diagnostic testing and biosensor instrument developers, data analysts, risk assessment software developers, property management firms, and others. The program has three technical areas: creating indoor biosensors, developing respiratory risk assessment software, and installing systems in buildings to cost-effectively deliver healthier air when needed.

(LIGHT) Lymphatic Imaging, Genomics, and Phenotyping Technologies ARPA-H

The Big Question: What if we could make the invisible lymphatic system visible? 

The Problem: Though invisible to the naked eye, the lymphatic system plays a major role in the healthy function of all major organs. Patients with primary lymphatic disease (LD) are often misdiagnosed, leading to inappropriate treatments, prolonged hospital stays, possible disfigurement and disability, and even death.  

Beyond LD, this difficulty in assessing lymphatic health impairs our understanding of its role in a variety of common, chronic diseases. Cancer, obesity, heart failure, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic kidney and liver diseases, autoimmune disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases all have a lymphatic component.  

The Current State: Signs of LD only appear clearly when the disease progresses, and clinical symptoms can be subtle or overlap with other conditions. The primary way to diagnose lymphatic dysfunction is a physical evaluation, which is not standardized and provides no insight into lymphatic anatomy or function. Today, reliable visualization is a major challenge in assessing lymphatic dysfunction. 

Current imaging technologies for the lymphatic system all have drawbacks. Magnetic resonance imaging, for example, is highly specialized, expensive, and inaccessible to most patients. More affordable imaging techniques lack good tissue penetration or are insufficiently detailed to be widely useful. Measurements from blood and lymphatic fluid and genetic testing have not been fully explored.  

The Challenge: Lymphatic vessels are tiny and translucent, making them much harder to see than blood vessels. Lymph fluid moves through them at a slow rate and low pressure, preventing many of the diagnostic techniques used for veins and arteries from being effective. Lymph fluid itself is also highly variable in composition.  

The Solution: The Lymphatic Imaging, Genomics, and pHenotyping Technologies (LIGHT) program seeks comprehensive diagnostic solutions across three technical areas: diagnosis and monitoring through biomarker discovery; imaging technologies; and prevention, prediction, and diagnostic confirmation through genetics, epigenetics, and models of lymphatic dysfunction. If successful, LIGHT will not only illuminate the unseen aspects of the lymphatic system through novel diagnostic approaches, but also significantly improve patient care and outcomes by gaining a deeper understanding of its critical role in health.