|On February 8, the Subcommittee for Health within the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (E&C) held a hearing on the proposed Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) with a heavy focus of the discussion on the structure of the agency within the federal government. Among other issues, members of the Committee heard testimony on whether a DARPA-like research agency should be housed within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as proposed by the Biden Administration or established as an independent agency under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Witnesses included Vice Chancellor for Science Policy and Strategy at the University of California San Francisco Dr. Keith Yamamoto, Executive Director of FasterCures and Center for Public Health and the Milken Institute Esther Krofah, CEO of On Demand Pharmaceuticals and Professor of Neurology at Johns Hopkins Medicine Dr. Geoffrey Shiu Fei Ling, Former Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett P. Giroir, and Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine Dr. Brian James Miller.
Subcommittee Chair Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Ranking Member Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Full E&C Committee Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and E&C Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) all commented on the importance of innovation in biomedical research, although Republican members raised concerns about “gain-of-function” research, which artificially enhances microorganisms, and oversight of research agencies on COVID-19 related issues (see previous coverage for more details). Eshoo voiced support for establishing ARPA-H as an independent agency and indicated that she would mark up two ARPA-H authorization proposals in the near future. The witnesses voiced support for investments in biomedical research through a new ARPA-H and praised the successes of the NIH writ large. Notably, many of the witnesses believed the high-risk, nimble nature of the proposed ARPA-H would be better suited to an independent agency rather than housed within NIH, with Admiral Giroir testifying, “we need ARPA-H because NIH cannot maintain a culture of radical innovation, disciplined execution, specific accountability, and streamlined processes that are essential for ARPA-H.”
Statements from Pallone, Eshoo, and witness testimonies along with a recording of the hearing are available on the E&C website.