The Biden administration isn’t backing down from its desire to keep a new drug accelerator, known as ARPA-H, within the National Institutes of Health.
But the House on Wednesday passed a bill by an overwhelming bipartisan majority (336 to 85) to make this new accelerator a stand-alone agency.
Anna Eshoo (D-CA), author of Internal invoiceclarified that the separation from the NIH is intentional, saying in a statement that “the House passed my ARPA-H legislation to create a new agency with the authorities and autonomy it needs to succeed and ensuring that it is agile, dynamic, and an independent agency.
Biden officials, meanwhile, remain supportive of the bill generally, but are still pushing for an adjustment to place ARPA-H under the NIH umbrella, saying in a statement. statement:
In order to successfully conduct impactful research on diseases such as cancer or mental health issues, it is essential that ARPA-H be implemented quickly and efficiently. At the same time, we must allow this nascent agency to be agile, dynamic and adaptable. To that end, the administration supports an approach that provides the agency with the flexibility to adapt to unforeseen circumstances and believes that leveraging the existing infrastructure of the National Institutes of Health would provide the most efficient administration of program objectives. The Administration is concerned about the provision that would allow ARPA-H to circumvent the process to ensure that communications with Congress are accurate and reflect the views of the executive branch.
But lawmakers are already planning for ARPA-H’s standalone future, with or without White House support, with plans to fund the accelerator $2.75 billion in 2023, an increase of 1 $.75 billion from the original $1 billion, which the owners say will go “to accelerate the pace of scientific breakthroughs” for diseases like ALS, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and cancer.
Biden had originally asked for $6.5 billion for this research team now hosted by the NIH, which will mirror DARPA with risky investments.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and other Republicans also backed the House bill. The president signed funding for this agency into law, now we need bipartisan authorization for researchers to get to work.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra late last month, however, sought to formally announce the creation of ARPA-H, officially known as the Advanced Research Project Agency for Health, as a entity within NIH, although HHS previously sought to retain the new research as a somewhat independent arm, stating that “NIH cannot subject ARPA-H to NIH policies”.
Becerra also announced the appointment of ARPA-H’s first employee, Adam Russell, as interim deputy director. Russell, a former DARPA director and Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, will begin building a new agency that envisions important and transformative work in the life sciences from the start, continually promising “high-risk, high-reward research.” on difficult topics. diseases to treat or costly to treat, with promises of “biomedical and health breakthroughs”.
With this new funding, the Biden team has yet to find ARPA-H’s first director, and where its headquarters will be located.