Shot in the Arm

By: Dr. M. Ray Perryman
Published in syndication May 18, 2022

The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health ("ARPA-H") was recently established as a new federal agency with the mission of transforming health research and innovation. The concept is similar to that of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which has fostered countless breakthrough discoveries (and is about the coolest place on earth). ARPA-H is charged with finding solutions to society's most challenging health crises, including cancer, Alzheimer's, and AIDS. Moreover, treatments are to be broadly accessible to improve outcomes across the globe while simultaneously containing medical costs.

Federal funding for basic research can be decisive in conquering the most difficult diseases and other challenges (as a polio survivor, I am acutely aware). While private sector resources are essential, publicly funded research can be more broad based and promote more creative thought in many arenas, thus complementing corporate efforts which must focus on market-based programs.

ARPA-H would support promising projects across a spectrum of disciplines which may help us better understand and solve critical health issues. Whether in a university lab or a private institution, the multi-faceted approach can accelerate discoveries and their implementation.

Texas has provided a prototype -- the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). Taxpayers have twice voted overwhelmingly to support CPRIT, providing about $6 billion in funding for cancer research and screening (more than any entity other than the federal government). As a result, hundreds of leading scholars have flocked to the state. The primary objective is improving health outcomes, and there has been impressive progress. The activity also generates economic benefits which my firm has been measuring for years. In 2021, we estimated that for every $1 in funding, CPRIT operations, prevention/screening, and research programs generated $66.87 in state economic output.

Texas would be an excellent location for ARPA-H, and I am pleased to be part of a coalition seeking to make that happen. In addition to the CPRIT commitment and success, the state has a long list of advantages -- world-class health care institutions, research organizations, universities, national laboratories, and medical schools. The world's largest medical center and the nation's largest military medical complex are also in Texas. A large, growing, and diverse population and tens of thousands of graduates in key fields every year provide the requisite sustainable workforce. A culture of innovation and a regulatory environment conducive to getting things done are Texas hallmarks. I could go on...and on...and on.

A bold move of this magnitude requires a setting where ARPA-H can thrive and successfully fulfill its mission, with the necessary support to enhance its effectiveness. The ultimate location will vault ahead in biomedical technology and related fields. The world desperately needs this initiative, and Texas can make it happen. Stay safe!