Scoring a Major Win for Military Medicine Translational Research

It took six months of proposal drafting, the collaboration of multiple Pitt organizations – together with eight academic partners -- and over 60 small business and other industry partners, followed by an agonizing year-long wait. But last month the monumental effort bore fruit. The Defense Health Agency (DHA) announced that the Pitt consortium will be one of a select group of organizations, and only one of two universities, to compete for as much as $10 billion in contracts from the Department of Defense to develop health care innovations over the next five years through the Omnibus IV program.


This is how it all came together.

The DHA, an integrated combat support agency that enables the Army, Navy, and Air Force medical services to provide a medically ready force, will be the central hub of medical research and development and the dollars that flow from it for the Department of Defense (DoD) beginning October 1, 2022. Omnibus IV is a contract mechanism that allows for each branch of the military to issue task orders (like a request for proposal from National institutes of Health or National Science Foundation) through the DHA to four market segments:

  • Research and Development
  • Research and Development Support Services
  • Regulatory Services
  • Translational Science Support and Services

Pitt submitted a proposal for the Research and Development and Translational Science Support and Services segments.

Ron Poropatich, retired U.S. Army colonel and director of Pitt’s Center for Military Medicine Research, (CMMR) and William R. Wagner, director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine (MIRM) first recognized the potential for this opportunity in late 2020. The University had built a strong track record for developing medical innovations for the Department of Defense across a range of therapeutic categories.

Because of this familiarity and confidence in the University’s abilities, the DoD encouraged the team leaders to submit a proposal as a prime sponsor. The dollar amount of potential research contracts was certainly alluring, but even more enticing was the opportunity for an academic institution to lead a solicitation that traditionally is awarded to larger non-governmental organizations.


The 6-month journey to completion

Dr. Poropatich began the proposal process by assembling a core writing team that in addition to CMMR and MIRM, included the Office of Industry and Economic Partnerships (OIEP), Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP), and School of Pharmacy’s Program Evaluation Research Unit (PERU). The solicitation required five volumes for completion: Proposal Documentation, Technical Capabilities, Past Performance, Small Business Participation and Pricing. The Pitt team divided writing responsibilities between the five volumes based on specific expertise for efficient workflow.

The solicitation required that a quarter of each project involve an industry partner. The OIEP, a unit of the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, helped assemble the participation of more than 50 small businesses and other industry partners, with the ability to add more with research and translation capabilities during the five years of the program. The partner companies include women-owned and disabled veteran-owned businesses and several Pitt startups.

The proposal team spent the next 6 months, meeting bi-weekly until the proposal was finalized and sent to the OSP for final review and submission to the DHA on May 11, 2021.

“Southwestern PA has one of the highest populations of military veterans in the country, and we at Pitt are all in on supporting both the Department of Defense and our VA community. We’re trying to build out a defense innovation economy for Pittsburgh.”

Ron Poropatich
University of Pittsburgh Center for Military Medicine Research

-PittWire May 26, 2022

Big Win Announced

Then they waited, and waited, and waited some more. There were rumblings that a response might be coming early 2022, but nothing materialized. The team fielded several emails from proposal partners seeking an update. But there was nothing to report.

Then on May 17, 2022, came the best news they could hear from DHA. The Pitt-led consortium was selected as one of fifty-six organizations for Omnibus IV.! This is a big win for the University of Pittsburgh and its academic partners and small business partners. Having this “fishing license” gives Pitt the exclusive opportunity with other awardees to compete for task orders. With each task order as its own proposal, the Pitt team will have a chance to vet those task orders, decide on whether to make a bid and assemble the right team members who will respond to that task order.

The Way Ahead

As of this writing, the team is waiting to have a kickoff call with DHA to learn when to expect task orders and how dollars will flow.

The University of Pittsburgh should be very proud of this announcement. The deep bench of skill, talent, scientific prowess, business savvy and medical understanding is bountiful here. The track record of the many successful investigators across the university is true testament to why the University achieved this designation. The Department of Defense has recognized Pitt as a true partner in addressing medical needs of service members, veterans, and the public.

In addition to Drs. Propatich and Wagner, the core Pitt team members that worked through a complex proposal process to completion, to an on-time submission and subsequent award include:

Janice Pringle – School of Pharmacy’s Program Evaluation and Research Unit

Jonathan Walkush – School of Pharmacy’s Program Evaluation and Research Unit

Brian Smith – Center for Military Medicine Research

Coleen O’Hara - Center for Military Medicine Research

Patrick Cantini – McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine

Katharine Wharton – McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine

Brian Vidic – Office of Industry and Economic Partnerships

Ann Gleeson – Center for Military Medicine Research

Eva Lai – Swanson School of Engineering

Heide Eash – Office of Sponsored Programs

Richard Hoff – Office of Sponsored Programs

Jamelle Price – McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine