Ion-ARPA initiative

Funding Agency:
Ionis Pharmaceuticals

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.

New Opportunities for 2023

Proposals to obtain proof of principle for an extraordinarily novel idea will be considered for funding up to $500,000 (total direct and indirect costs)/year for up to two years on a rolling basis at any time.

Area of interest #1: New delivery strategies that enable delivery of large nucleic acid payloads to the CNS

There are many opportunities to treat diseases in the CNS, but methods to deliver large nucleic acids to appropriate cells in the CNS are limiting.  We are seeking proposals for unconventional approaches (excluding AAV or other live viruses, and beyond the ideas currently in the literature) to deliver large therapeutic payloads to cells of the CNS.

Area of interest #2: New strategies for regulating the epigenome for therapeutics

Epigenome editing has emerged as a therapeutic strategy to regulate gene expression without creating nicks or breaks in the DNA.  We are interested in funding novel strategies to provide long lasting epigenome modulation to increase or decrease expression of gene products. We are not interested in using replicating viruses (e.g. AAV), editing RNA or ideas based on dead Cas similar to what is in the literature already. We are only interested in funding completely novel approaches.

If you are interested in submitting a proposal, please submit a white paper (5 pages maximum) that succinctly describes your idea. Use the standard white paper template and submit to

Agency Website

Eligibility Requirements

Investigators from academic institutions, companies, national laboratories, nonprofit institutes, and multi-institutional teams are welcome to apply. 

Amount Description

Annual funding could range from seedlings of $300K to full programs of up to $1M per laboratory per year, or more with appropriate justification. Funding can be used for principal investigator (PI), co-principal investigator, staff scientist, postdoctoral researcher, and graduate student salaries, relevant travel, laboratory supplies, open access publication costs, small laboratory equipment, vivarium expenses, and institutional indirect costs.  

Funding Type





Medical - Basic Science
Medical - Clinical Science