Baltimore Sun

Baltimore makes pitch for medical research accelerato­r

- By Giacomo Bologna

The city of Baltimore is officially throwing its hat in the ring for a new $1 billion federal agency being establishe­d to accelerate the pursuit of a cure for cancer and other ambitious medical research projects.

It’s called the “Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health,” or ARPA-H, and it’s expected to tackle projects that are seen as too costly, risky or time-intensive for the private sector and traditiona­l public research.

This new program will be under the Bethesda-based National Institutes of Health, but federal lawmakers have been pushing to locate it away from Washington, D.C., and its suburbs, saying that it needs to be nimble and independen­t to be successful.

That has set off a nationwide competitio­n among cities and states.

Leaders in the medical research field and government told The Baltimore Sun in June that discussion­s to bring ARPA-H to Maryland were underway, but Thursday’s announceme­nt by the city of Baltimore appears to be the first public effort toward landing what could be a boon to the area’s biomedical research industry.

“Baltimore has many wonderful assets that would prove invaluable to and supportive of ARPAH, including world-class educationa­l and healthcare facilities, excellent medical research institutio­ns, and a diverse and talented workforce,” Mayor Brandon Scott said in a press release.

“In addition, the city’s life sciences, technology and entreprene­urial ecosystem make Baltimore an ideal location for ARPAH. Attracting this institutio­n will continue our city’s renaissanc­e by bringing jobs, investment, and innovation to Baltimore.”

According to the release, the Baltimore Developmen­t

Corp. will lead this effort and seek input from several organizati­ons, including the Greater Baltimore Committee, UpSurge Baltimore, the Abell Foundation, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland, Baltimore and Morgan State University.

ARPA-H will be modeled on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, the research wing of the U.S. Department of Defense that was involved in the developmen­t of the internet and GPS technology.

ARPA-H will have looser guidelines on ordering and canceling contracts than other government agencies do.

The Department of Health and Human Services oversees NIH, and a spokesman for the agency said in June that the decision on where to locate APRA-H will be made jointly by Health Secretary Xavier Becerra and the yet-to-benamed director of ARPA-H.

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