State House News Service: Letter Shows Solidarity Around State’s ARPA-H Bid

This news brief was originally published by SHNS on October 24, 2022.

The group that has been trying to convince the Biden administration to pick Massachusetts as the home of an advanced health research agency is trying to demonstrate that the Bay State has “the density” of talent, world-class hospitals, top-tier research universities and innovative companies that would help the new federal effort succeed. The Coalition for Health Advances & Research in Massachusetts (CHARM), led by U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, Gov. Charlie Baker, the University of Massachusetts, the Mass. Biotechnology Council and others, last week released an open letter signed by more than 80 members of the state’s political, academic and business sectors lobbying the federal government to put the new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) in Massachusetts. The letter was sent to ARPA-H Director Dr. Renee Wegrzyn and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Massachusetts has the density of resources necessary for ARPA-H to thrive — talent, leading research universities, teaching hospitals, and life sciences companies,” the letter, signed by House Speaker Ronald Mariano, Senate President Karen Spilka, and a who’s-who of the academia, life sciences and business worlds, reads. “President Biden envisions ARPA-H as a dynamic organization centered around risk tolerance, a sense of urgency, and a mandate to push the limits of biomedical and health research. ARPA-H’s success will rely on talent. No other state has the necessary pool of cross-disciplinary talent in biomedical and other scientific fields, engineering, computation, and technology — across academia and industry — who can fill those rotating roles quickly and on a regular basis.” ARPA-H is meant to “support transformative high-risk, high-reward research to drive biomedical and health breakthroughs,” the administration said, and was funded with $1 billion that was included in legislation that passed in March. No headquarters has been selected and Massachusetts is among a handful of states that are openly jockeying for the opportunity to host the organization that’s modeled on the Pentagon’s research arm, DARPA. CHARM said that Massachusetts is home to “18 out of 20 of the largest biotech and pharmaceutical companies, 56 million square feet of lab and life sciences space, and more than a hundred colleges and universities and multiple world class research hospitals.” Neal and others last month pointed to President Joe Biden’s choice of the John F. Kennedy Library in Dorchester as the venue for his “cancer moonshot” speech as evidence that the administration understands the role Massachusetts plays in the life sciences universe. – Colin A. Young/SHNS

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