Today, President Joe Biden announced his intent to appoint Dr. Renee Wegrzyn as the first director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), a new agency established to drive biomedical innovation that supports the health of all Americans. On the 60th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s Moonshot speech, Dr. Wegrzyn will join President Biden today at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston as he discusses his bold vision for another American Moonshot: ending cancer as we know it.
Dr. Wegrzyn, a scientist with professional experience working for two of the institutions that inspired the creation of ARPA-H – the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) – will be responsible for driving the agency’s nascent research portfolio and associated budget. The budget is expected to support a broad range of programs in order to develop capabilities to prevent, detect and treat some of the most intractable diseases including cancer.
President Biden created ARPA-H in March 2022 to push the limits of U.S. biomedical and health research and innovation. ARPA-H will embrace proven models of tapping talent and expertise from across industry, academia, and government to bring new ideas and approaches, as well as the ability to marshal resources through public-private partnerships. Equity will be important to ARPA-H’s mission, which will ensure all projects consider equity in their design, support impactful breakthroughs, expand health care access, and improve access for all patients regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, and income level.
Dr. Renee Wegrzyn, Inaugural Director, Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H)
Dr. Renee Wegrzyn is currently a vice president of business development at Ginkgo Bioworks and Head of Innovation at Concentric by Ginkgo, where she is focused on applying synthetic biology to outpace infectious diseases – including COVID-19 – through biomanufacturing, vaccine innovation, and biosurveillance of pathogens at scale.
Prior to Ginkgo Bioworks, Wegrzyn was program manager in the Biological Technologies Office (BTO) of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), where she leveraged the tools of synthetic biology and gene editing to enhance biosecurity, promote public health, and support the domestic bioeconomy. Her DARPA portfolio included the Living Foundries: 1000 Molecules, Safe Genes, Preemptive Expression of Protective Alleles and Response Elements (PREPARE), and Detect it with Gene Editing Technologies (DIGET) programs.
Wegrzyn received the Superior Public Service Medal for her work and contributions at DARPA. Prior to joining DARPA as a program manager, Wegrzyn led technical teams in private industry in the areas of biosecurity, gene therapies, emerging infectious disease, neuromodulation, synthetic biology, as well as research and development teams commercializing multiplex immunoassays and peptide-based disease diagnostics.
Wegrzyn served on the scientific advisory boards for the National Academies of Science Board on Army Research and Development, Revive & Restore, Air Force Research Labs, Nuclear Threat Initiative, and the Innovative Genomics Institute. She holds doctorate and bachelor’s degrees in applied biology from the Georgia Institute of Technology, was a fellow in the Center for Health Security Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative (ELBI), and completed her postdoctoral training as an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow in Heidelberg, Germany.