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WASHINGTON — The former director of DARPA, the Pentagon’s high-stakes research arm, says that for an equivalent health care agency to succeed, it should be fully separated from the National Institutes of Health.

Arati Prabhakar, who led DARPA from 2012 to 2017, also warned that the Biden administration should think bigger. Instead of focusing only on new medicines and vaccines, she said, ARPA-H should consider the root causes of poor U.S. health outcomes, ranging from obesity to the overdose crisis.


“If you just think about science and cures and patients, you simply aren’t going to change health outcomes in a meaningful way,” Prabhakar said. “ARPA-H is a clean sheet of paper, and therefore an opportunity to actually start with the factors that determine health outcomes.”

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