Boston Business Journal: Inside the push to bring ARPA-H to Massachusetts

Sep 19, 2022

By Cassie McGrath, Boston Business Journal

This story was originally published in the Boston Business Journal.

In the wake of President Joe Biden’s announcement of the inaugural director of ARPA-H in Boston last week, local leaders are working overtime to get in front of the federal officials who will decide whether the new agency for health research and innovation will be placed in Massachusetts. 

President Joe Biden speaks at Terminal E at Logan Airport.

The establishment of ARPA-H, or the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, was announced in March. With $1 billion in funding, the agency is tasked with advancing the United States government’s ability to speed biomedical and health research.

Joe Boncore, CEO of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, is on the state group leading the charge to bring ARPA-H to the Bay State. He told the Business Journal that the strategy of the group — known as Coalition for Health Advances & Research in Massachusetts, or CHARM — is to have coalition members talk to the people making the decision about Massachusetts’ award winning hospitals and biotech innovation, as well as its work on data science, robotics, artificial intelligence and computation.

“In the directive of ARPA-H, it’s the government saying that they want to be bold, they want to be creative, and innovative in tackling human health’s biggest challenges, and that’s what our ecosystem is known for,” Boncore said. “Just think of Covid, right? I mean, the three vaccines came out of this ecosystem. Every company had a footprint here. So I think Massachusetts really can deliver for the country here.”

Boncore said that congressional intervention will be important in the decision as well, and that the Massachusetts delegation has been supportive of the idea. However, he fears that if ARPA-H were set up tomorrow, it would be located in Washington D.C., which is where its new director, Renee Wegrzyn, is based.

“We really see that as counterintuitive to ARPA-H’s mission,” Boncore said. “We’re very supportive of congressional action at this point and efforts to pass legislation that would get it out of Washington D.C. proper, and get it close to the science, because we feel if it’s close to the science, if it’s close to the breakthroughs in medical innovation, it’s going to have the best chance for success. There’s no better place than Massachusetts for that.”

Read the full story at the Boston Business Journal.

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