NIH-OSTP Listening Session - August 11, 2021

Statement by Dr. Bruce Tromberg, Director, NIBIB

Thank you Eric, and thanks to Drs Schwetz, Tabak, Collins and the NIH and OSTP teams for organizing todays meeting. Our session brings the NHGRI, NLM, and NIBIB communities together, united in our dedication to biomedical information… from kilobits to zettabytes.  We are the people who care the most about creating, managing, and mining data for making new discoveries and saving lives.  

As the engineering institute at NIH, NIBIB supports a vibrant technology development community that plays a special role in this enterprise, and makes us an essential stakeholder and partner for ARPA-H.

There are few, if any, marvels of modern medicine that do not rely on technologic advances. Some examples include engineered nanomaterials that target cells for delivering therapies and vaccines; imaging machines that reliably detect and diagnose cancer and neurodegenerative diseases; and AI tech that focuses sound waves deep inside the brain for precision neuro-surgery without scalpels. 

Everyone recognizes that cutting-edge technologies like these can dramatically change how we see, treat, understand and prevent disease. But technology development takes time, typically decades, to perfect, and I am always asked by the public: “why is this so slow”, “when can I get it” and “what’s coming next?” 
We believe that ARPA-H at the NIH will fundamentally change this conversation in two major ways. First, ARPA-H will create new mechanisms for optimizing and accelerating the “design, build, test, and deploy” tech development cycle that defines how we work.  This will dramatically increase the number and scope of game-changing biomedical technologies available for patients. 

Second, ARPA-H will expand opportunities to advance purpose-driven design methods that are the cornerstone of our bioengineering discipline.  Regardless of the biomedical challenge, ARPA-H will provide new pathways for engaging our community of technology innovators and entrepreneurs.  A new generation of diverse, interdisciplinary teams will be empowered to work together to create true solutions to longstanding biomedical problems. 

NIH-wide support for bioengineering has grown at a remarkable rate since NIBIB was established ~20 years ago. Over the past year and half, our community has led the NIH RADx tech program that created more than 500 million laboratory, point of care, and home tests for COVID.  We are now ready to build on these experiences and play a key role in making ARPA-H a success. My colleagues Drs. Mitch Schnall, Tejal Desai, and Dan Bourland, from 3 of our leading professional societies are here today to provide additional details on what we can do. 

I now turn over the microphone to my colleague and collaborator, Dr. Patti Brenan, Director of the National Library of Medicine.

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