RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina lawmakers are pushing for a major federal biomedical facility to be headquartered in the state.
In a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, members of North Carolina’s Congressional Delegation urged the agency to make their state the headquarter for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health.
ARPA-H was a proposal from President Joe Biden to improve the country’s ability to speed up biomedical and health research.
The center would focus on making breakthroughs in the way the U.S. prevents, treats, and cures a range of diseases including cancer, infectious diseases, and Alzheimer’s disease. Its creation was signed into law in March.
The ARPA-H website says it “will support transformative high-risk, high-reward research to drive biomedical and health breakthroughs.”
North Carolina lawmakers touted research and development hubs in key sectors.
“There is demonstrated record of these industries partnering without institutions of higher education across the state to bolster our nation’s health workforce, leading breakthrough biomedical, biotechnology, and life sciences research on a global scale,” a bipartisan group of North Carolina’s members of the U.S. House and Senate wrote in their letter.
A group formed under the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, ARPA-H in NC Coalition, is also advocating bringing the facility to the state. They include major institutions including Duke Health, Duke Margolis Center for Health Policy, RTI International, SAS Institute, UNC Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina System.
“Getting ARPA-H in North Carolina is just another rung on that ladder that will continue to move our state forward,” said Mary Beth Thomas, vice president for science and business development for the NC Biotechnology Center. “That’ll be a continued growth of our reputation globally as well as nationally.”
Thomas said while the ARPA-H headquarters is not expected to bring a large number of jobs with it, having it in North Carolina could help existing businesses and research facilities while making the state more attractive to new businesses as well.
“And, while there won’t be thousands of (positions) in the agency, it will continue to develop North Carolina’s momentum of continuing to strive to be a global leader in life sciences,” Thomas said.
Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill establishing ARPA-H by a vote of 336-85 Republican U.S. Reps. Dan Bishop (9th District) and Virginia Foxx (5th District) were the only members from North Carolina who voted against it.
In a statement, Rep. Bishop said, “Congress already spends tens of billions of dollars per year for advanced medical research through 27 National Institutes of Health and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. Only creatures of Washington like Joe Biden think the way to address the public health failures and the gain-of-function research scandal of the pandemic is to create yet another multibillion-dollar federal health bureaucracy and exempt it from peer review and other scrutiny. The commonsense vote was no.”
Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC 13th), who is running for Senate this year, tweeted about the issue Tuesday. He said, “North Carolina is uniquely positioned to be the headquarters of ARPA-H.”
The state is not alone in its bid to call the center home. There is competition with Georgia, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Pennsylvania who have also thrown their hat in the ring to headquarter ARPA-H.
It’s unclear when or how DHHS will appoint a headquarters for the facility. It is also unknown when the center will open.