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Ionis Innovation

The Ion-ARPA initiative

Ion-ARPA is an initiative to identify next-wave technologies with the potential to accelerate the creation of therapeutic technologies through disruptive innovation. Modeled on the U.S. Department of Defense program known as DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), the Ion-ARPA approach will contribute to Ionis’ long-term strategy by expanding on the innovation that brought about its revolutionary antisense technology to create novel cutting-edge technologies capable of pioneering new markets in healthcare. Ion-ARPA programs will be funded (up to $1M per laboratory) based on high-risk ideas with big payoff potential.


Current funding opportunities

Novel Ways to Regulate Gene Expression White Papers due June 1, 2022
(Note: the deadline has been extended from March 1, 2022)

The program seeks to create novel ways to regulate gene expression to overcome a disease state.  The strategy could leverage inherent or synthetic molecular mechanisms.  Approaches could be tunable, auto-regulatory (e.g., respond to the context of the specific cells being treated), or controlled with a physical method (e.g., ultrasound or magnetic fields).

General areas of interest include, but are not limited to, novel strategies for silencing or activating genes, targeted RNA modification, and gene editing beyond existing CRISPR/Cas9-based approaches.  The scale of the approach can range from the modulation of a single gene to that of an entire chromosome.

Proposers are required to submit a short white paper by June 1, 2022.

White Paper Template»

Selected white papers will be invited to submit a full proposal

Full Proposal Template»

Inquiries and white papers should be sent to [email protected]


Previous funding opportunities

Quantum Biology (January 2021) – 6 Institutions funded

Payload Delivery (March 2022) – 11 institutions funded


How the program works

Ion-ARPA will announce areas of interest and solicit requests for proposals (RFPs). The RFPs will pose specific technological challenges and outline what is expected from proposal solicitations.  Programs are intended to run for two years to test bold ideas, with the potential to continue if encouraging results are obtained. This program provides an opportunity to obtain funding to explore truly original ideas considered too risky to be funded from traditional sources.

Proposers are required to submit a short white paper (white paper template).  Selected white papers will be invited to submit a full proposal (full proposal template). Invited full proposals will be required to have a structure and content similar to those submitted to other funding agencies, e.g. DARPA, NIH, NSF, BARDA, BMGF, and contain a scientific explanation for the proposed concept, goals, measurable milestones and timelines (see template below).  Programs will be actively managed and require monthly updates and quarterly reviews. White papers and full proposals will be reviewed confidentially by Ion-ARPA scientific staff and confidentially by selected scientific advisors to the company.


Seedling Proposals

Proposals to obtain proof of principle for an extraordinarily novel idea to create a new platform technology for therapeutics can be considered for funding up to $300,000 (total) on a rolling basis at any time. Please use the standard white paper template and submit to [email protected]


Intellectual property

The awardees will retain ownership of intellectual property created during performance of the program. In exchange for its funding, Ionis will receive a paid-up non-exclusive license and first option to negotiate for an exclusive license.


Inquiries and white papers should be sent to  [email protected]