This story was originally published in Politico’s Massachusetts Playbook by Lisa Kashinsky on May 16, 2022.
MEDICAL CENTER — Massachusetts is already a medical mecca. Now a bipartisan group of the state’s most influential current and former politicians is hoping to take that status to the next level.
Gov. Charlie Baker, Rep. Richard Neal, UMass President Marty Meehan and MassBio CEO Joe Boncore are spearheading an effort to make Massachusetts the headquarters for the new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health.
The Biden administration proposed the agency — also known as ARPA-H, but not to be confused with the federal Covid-19 relief package with a similar acronym — to deliver breakthrough treatments for Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer and other diseases. After some squabbling about its structure, ARPA-H secured a $1 billion down payment from the feds.
Now it needs a home. And Massachusetts pols are making the case that it should be here. Boncore, a former state senator, hailed the state’s “incredible life sciences ecosystem.” Baker said the Bay State’s status as a “global hub for health care research, life sciences, and academia” makes it “a highly attractive place” for ARPA-H’s HQ.
To really sell the Bay State will take work. Several states are expected to vie to play host to ARPA-H. A coalition of hospital systems, research institutions and chambers of commerce is already building a case for Texas. And a major champion of the research initiative with Massachusetts ties, Eric Lander, resigned from the Biden administration earlier this year amid reports of bullying.
But those behind the emerging Massachusetts coalition cite state investments in life sciences, education and workforce training; high demand for lab space and record-breaking increases in venture-capital funding in biopharma as key selling points.
“Massachusetts is an international hub for medical research and development, which is why our state is the best location for ARPA-H,” Neal said in a statement. “I am eager to make this a reality.”