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Ionis Innovation

The Ion-ARPA initiative

Ion-ARPA is an Ionis 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 eventually create novel cutting-edge technologies capable of pioneering new markets in healthcare. Ion-ARPA programs will be funded based on high-risk ideas with big payoff potential.


How the program works

Ion-ARPA will announce areas of interest and solicit requests for proposals (RFP’s) in these areas. The RFP’s 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.

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.  Programs will be actively managed and require monthly updates and quarterly reviews. Proposals will be reviewed confidentially by Ion-ARPA scientific staff and confidentially by selected scientific advisors to the company.  Proposers are encouraged to solicit a white paper (see guidelines below) in advance of submitting a full proposal. White papers that propose programs outside the scope of RFP’s will be considered on a rolling basis.


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.


Quantum Biology Program

The first Ion-ARPA program awards were made to explore quantum mechanics, its role in biology and potential impact on disease processes. Awardees include the University of California at Santa Barbara, the University of California Riverside and the University of Buckingham in the UK. While the first round of funding for this area is closed, white papers will continue to be accepted on a rolling basis.  White papers that investigate quantum effects of stable isotopes on biochemical pathways are particularly encouraged.


White paper guidelines

White papers are succinct proposals not to exceed 6 pages. While there is no specific format, white papers should address the key elements of the “Heilmeier Catechism”:  What are you trying to do? Articulate your objectives using absolutely no jargon. How is it done today and what are the limits of current practice? What is new in your approach and why do you think it will be successful? If you are successful, what difference will it make? What are the risks? How much will it cost? How long will it take? What are the mid-term and final “exams” to check for success?

For proposals outside the scope of Ionis RFP announcements a “seedling” budget of up to $750,000 and 18 month’s performance will be considered.

Inquiries and white papers should be sent to