The Economist: “Using messenger RNA to make vaccines was an unproven idea. But if it worked, the technique would revolutionise medicine, not least by providing protection against infectious diseases and biological weapons. So in 2013 America’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) gambled. It awarded a small, new firm called Moderna $25m to develop the idea. Eight years, and more than 175m doses later, Moderna’s covid-19 vaccine sits on the list of innovations for which DARPA can claim at least partial credit, alongside weather satellites, GPS, drones, stealth technology, voice interfaces, the personal computer and the internet.
It is the agency that shaped the modern world, and this success has spurred imitators. In America there are ARPAs for homeland security, intelligence and energy, as well as the original defence one. President Joe Biden has asked Congress for $6.5bn to set up a health version, which will, the president vows, “end cancer as we know it”. His administration also has plans for another, to tackle climate change. Germany has recently established two such agencies: one civilian (the Federal Agency for Disruptive Innovation, or SPRIN-D) and another military (the Cybersecurity Innovation Agency). Japan’s version is called Moonshot R&D. In Britain, a bill for an Advanced Research and Invention Agency—often referred to as UK ARPA—is making its way through parliament….(More)”.