ARPA-H leaders to participate in Johns Hopkins Health Policy Forum discussion

School of Medicine Dean Theodore DeWeese will lead a conversation with Renee Wegrzyn, director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, and Kimberley Steele, ARPA-H program manager, on April 30

Renee Wegrzyn, director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), and Kimberley Steele, ARPA-H program manager for Health Science Futures, will join Theodore DeWeese, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, for a virtual conversation on Tuesday, April 30, as part of the Johns Hopkins Health Policy Forum.

Renee Wegrzyn and Kimberley Steele

Image caption: Renee Wegrzyn and Kimberley Steele

Established in 2022, ARPA-H advances high-potential, high-impact biomedical and health research that cannot be readily accomplished through traditional research or commercial activity.

The discussion, which begins at noon, will reflect on the agency's innovative approach to the research ecosystem, unique funding model, and the launch of ARPA-H's newest project, the Lymphatic Imaging, Genomics, and pHenotyping Technologies (LIGHT) program, which will pursue comprehensive diagnostic tools and revolutionize detection of lymphatic dysfunction.

Johns Hopkins faculty, staff, students, alumni, and members of the general public are invited to tune in to the event; advance registration is required.

"Like DARPA in the post-Spuntik era, ARPA-H today is an accelerant, and Director Wegrzyn brings expertise and a sense of urgency to funding innovation to address the greatest health care issues of our time," DeWeese said. "I am delighted to be able to bring her voice directly to the Hopkins community."

Wegrzyn was appointed by President Joe Biden on Oct. 11, 2022, as the first director of ARPA-H. Previously she served as a vice president of business development at Ginkgo Bioworks and head of innovation at Concentric by Ginkgo, where she focused on applying the tools of synthetic biology to outpace infectious diseases. Wegrzyn spent more than a decade at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), including five years as a program manager with a $250 million portfolio, and as a technical advisor to the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA).

Steele joined ARPA-H in November 2023 from The Lymphatic Education and Research Network (LE&RN), where she supported lymphatic research efforts as special projects director. Prior to that, Steele was associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She completed a minimally invasive and bariatric surgical fellowship at Johns Hopkins and joined the faculty, rising to associate professor while earning a doctorate in clinical investigation at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health as well as certification with the American Board of Obesity Medicine. She is recognized internationally for her contributions to research on bariatric surgery, the gut-brain axis, and neuroimaging in obesity.

This will be the 11th event in the Health Policy Forum series, which launched in fall 2020 to highlight the university's engagement with key leaders on matters of health policy and health care. Previous events featured:

  • Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (October 2020)
  • Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (May 2021)
  • Robert M. Davis, CEO and president of Merck (October 2021)
  • Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (January 2022)
  • Atul Gawande, assistant administrator of the Bureau for Global Health at the U.S. Agency for International Development (April 2022)
  • Donna Shalala, former HHS secretary and member of Congress (June 2022)
  • Xavier Becerra, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (December 2022)
  • Michelle Lujan Grisham, governor of New Mexico (May 2023)
  • Sudip Parikh, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (July 2023)
  • Tom Polen, chairman, CEO, and president of Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD) (November 2023)

The Health Policy Forum series is jointly hosted by Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health, Carey Business School, and School of Nursing along with Johns Hopkins Medicine.