The national bidding war for ARPA-H

An intrastate bidding war has erupted for the chance to house the headquarters of a new multibillion-dollar science agency aimed at curing major diseases — even before the agency’s structure was finalized by Congress.

Why is it important: The Advanced Health Research Project Agency, or ARPA-H, is a pet project of President Biden that would focus on breakthrough innovations in healthcare and technology, researching and funding ways to cure cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and more. .

Driving the news: States and cities including Georgia, MassachusettsNorth Carolina, Cleveland, Texas and philadelphia cream have made or plan to make their case to the Department of Health and Human Services, often through bipartisan letters from their leaders to Congress.

State of play: Although the agency director reports to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the exact structure remains undecided. The Biden administration envisioned ARPA-H as housed within the National Institutes of Health, in part to take advantage of existing efficiencies. But a bill passed by the House in June would make an independent agency. The Senate has not yet taken up the matter.

  • The agency is modeled after the research arm of the Pentagon, DARPA.
  • Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-California), who sponsored the House bill, sees the agency as “Agile, dynamic and independent“, a view echoed by others in Congress who wondered whether NIH culture could support a more risky entity.

The big picture: A department spokesperson told Axios that they “have made no commitment as to the physical location of ARPA-H. The decision on its location will ultimately rest with the First Director in consultation with the Secretary.”

Yes, but: An inaugural director has yet to be named. Acting director Adam Russell, a DARPA veteran, began work last month.

Enlarge: States and cities have assembled coalitions of business, nonprofit and political leaders to tout their existing medical research universities and science and technology ecosystems to lay the groundwork for their bids.

  • Georgia’s congressional delegation has united to advocate for the location of the new agency near the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

  • Texas Delegation wrote that the Lone Star State should land headquarters since it is already home to the largest medical center in the world and the largest military medical complex in the country.
  • Massachusetts underline that Greater Boston is already home to one of the largest biotech clusters in the world.

What they say : “To be completely honest, they’re all in competition with Massachusetts,” MassBio President Joe Boncore said. Axios Boston. “When someone asks where ARPA-H should be located, there’s really only one answer, and that’s here in the Commonwealth.”

  • “We have a history of fighting global diseases and building a unique infrastructure in the country,” said Russ Medford, the biotech executive who heads the Georgian Coalitiontold Axios Atlanta, calling it “a match made in heaven.”
  • “They’re looking for established, successful biotech hubs. How could we not get in on the act?” Scott Levitan, CEO of North Carolina’s Research Triangle Foundation, told Axios Raleigh.

Zachery Eanes of Axios in Raleigh, Steph Solis in Boston and Naheed Rajwani-Dharsi in Dallas contributed reporting for this story.

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