UCLA Health is part of a multi-institution research team to receive a contract for up to $33 million from the federal Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) for the development of new osteoarthritis treatments specifically focused on joint regeneration. UCLA’s portion of the award will support the development of novel therapies with the goal of completing an FDA phase 1 clinical trial within the next five years. 

Innovative Collaboration for Joint Regeneration

This multi-institution team, which includes researchers from Duke and Boston Children’s Hospital, is one of five selected by ARPA-H to participate in its Novel Innovations for Tissue Regeneration in Osteoarthritis (NITRO) program, which is intended to develop innovative forms of regenerative medicine —including affordable injectable and implantable therapies—that can regenerate joint tissue damaged by osteoarthritis. 

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Addressing a Growing Healthcare Challenge

“Osteoarthritis affects more than 32 million Americans, is a leading cause of disability worldwide, and results in an annual financial burden of more than $136 billion in the U.S. alone,” says Thomas Kremen Jr, MD, orthopedic surgeon at UCLA Health and lead investigator for the proposed clinical trial of osteoarthritis treatments. “The NITRO award is specifically designed to translate innovative discoveries made in the lab into novel therapies capable of regenerating or replacing bone and cartilage in patients suffering from osteoarthritis. The clinical trial associated with this accelerated therapy development is planned to take place at UCLA starting as soon as 2027. It’s an exciting—and truly game-changing—endeavor.” 

Equity and Accessibility in Healthcare

Orthopedic surgeon Sharon Hame, MD, will serve as the team equity lead, as a vital component of ARPA-H’s mission is to accelerate better health outcomes for all Americans, especially for those historically overlooked in clinical research. UCLA Health will lead clinical trials of the new treatments under development, in part because of UCLA’s unique ability, infrastructure, and commitment to engagement with a diverse population of patients.

In addition to Kremen and Hame, the UCLA Health team includes Karen Lyons, PhD, and Weiguang Wang, PhD, each of whom contributed innovative technology selected for this moonshot effort. 

Empowering Hope and Healing

“We are excited to be a part of this groundbreaking approach to the treatment of osteoarthritis. The NITRO program will allow us to transform discovery research into equitable therapies that will improve the lives of millions whose daily lives are impacted by the pain, loss of motion, and mobility issues associated with osteoarthritis,” says Lyons, who has been designated as UCLA Health site lead for the project.

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