Washington Update

FASEB Comments on ARPA-H Proposal in Cures 2.0 Bill

By: Ellen Kuo
Thursday, September 16, 2021

On September 9, the FASEB Board of Directors approved a letter to Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Fred Upton (R-MI) as they prepare to introduce the follow-up version to their 21st Century Cures Act later this fall. A draft of the Cures 2.0 legislation circulated in the early summer to build on the success of the first 21st Century Cures Act, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by then President Barack Obama in 2016. According to the draft, this bill would improve the delivery of new medical treatments by creating the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), a new federal effort to make cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other difficult diseases a reality.

“The federal government has amazing resources at its disposal,” DeGette and Upton said, “and now is the time to put the full weight of those resources to use to cure some of the world’s most devastating diseases…”  

In response to the representatives’ request for comments on how ARPA-H should be constructed, FASEB’s submission stated the common theme of the scientific community that no funding should be taken from the National Institutes of Health base funding to support the new agency. Among other comments mentioned was that its location should be in the Greater Washington, DC, area and should be led by a well-regarded director with a sound understanding of industry and academia operations. The director should be forwarding thinking with an eye toward ensuring the agency has the political support it needs after the initial allocation of funds from Congress is exhausted in order to demonstrate its added value to the biomedical community and its work. The agency should also work closely with other federal agencies to ensure coordination.

FASEB concurred with others who suggested that research projects funded by ARPA-H should include a focus on alleviating health disparities and that a strong effort should be made to recruit a diverse population of employees to fill key roles within the agency.