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Renee Wegrzyn has been assembling teams her whole career — in academia, industry, and government. Now she’s in charge of a multibillion-dollar operation tasked with spotting talent, incubating breakthroughs, and doing for the life sciences what DARPA did for technology.

Wegrzyn is director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, or ARPA-H, a newly formed organization tasked with investing in promising ideas across the life sciences. Its mission is not to supplant the National Institutes of Health or compete with venture capitalists, but rather to bankroll potentially transformative projects that might otherwise slip through the cracks of traditional funding.


Wegrzyn was included in the second annual STATUS List, which features leaders in health, medicine, and science. STAT caught up with Wegrzyn to discuss her path to leading ARPA-H, the organization’s mission, and the importance of establishing the right culture on day one.

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