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  • Washington Highlights

    Rep. Eshoo Introduces Authorizing Legislation for President’s ARPA-H Proposal


    Christa Wagner, Manager, Government Relations

    Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) introduced H.R. 5585, the Advanced Research Project Agency-Health (ARPA-H) Act, on Oct. 15. The bill would establish President Joe Biden’s ARPA-H proposal originally outlined in the administration’s fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget request and outline the authorities the new entity would have [refer to Washington Highlights, June 4].

    “A nimble, dynamic, and independent ARPA-H … will transform health and medicine. My legislation provides ARPA-H with the authorities, structure, and resources it needs to be successful,” said Eshoo, chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee, in a press statement.

    “This bill will allow ARPA-H to focus on developing breakthrough technologies that would otherwise die in the commercial market. I look forward to working with the President and my colleagues to establish this agency that will be a beacon of hope for so many Americans fighting for their lives,” she added.

    The goals of the initiative as proposed by President Biden are to utilize the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency as a model to foster faster development of novel treatments, diagnostics, cures, and preventive measures to improve health. The ARPA-H Act would establish the new entity within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), but not specifically within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as the White House has proposed. Both the House-passed and draft Senate FY 2022 spending bills include funds to establish ARPA-H within the NIH, although the Senate bill’s explanatory statement notes the committee “remains open” to establishing ARPA-H as a free-standing agency outside of the NIH [refer to related story].

    The legislation would authorize the creation of a new fund to support ARPA-H, with an initial authorization of $3 billion in the fund in FY 2022. The bill also would require a budget request from the president in future years that would be separate from the rest of the HHS budget, and allow the FY 2022 spending bill and future appropriations bills to provide advanced appropriations for ARPA-H.

    The legislation emphasizes that the initiative should prioritize funding support for proposals that would address a disproportionate disease burden and promote health equity.

    The ARPA-H Act would establish the ARPA-H director as a presidential appointee with a five-year term. The director would have authority to approve and terminate project funding, establish milestones, and coordinate with other federal research agencies.

    The bill would also establish an advisory committee made up of federal officials from other health and research agencies with appropriate subject matter expertise.

    The AAMC and association-convened Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research previously provided feedback to a request for information from Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.) for the development of their own pending legislation to authorize ARPA-H [refer to Washington Highlights, July 23].