Senate to cull Biden's biomedical research agency from social care bill: Report

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President Joe Biden’s $3 billion Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health is in jeopardy as the Senate is set to cut the agency from its social care spending bill.

This is according to sources talking to Politico over the weekend and also comes after the so-called ARPA-H program had its proposed funding halved from $6.5 billion to $3 billion. Now, even that scaled-down version is under the ax.

Politico, citing three sources familiar with the matter, says it will be cut from the Senate’s version of the reconciliation bill “because it requires regulatory authorities outside the scope of the chamber’s strict rules for passing bills with a simple majority through the process known as reconciliation.”

ARPA-H was proposed back in the summer and set to launch this year, and was aimed at working alongside the private sector to boost research on a range of big killers, including cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

This was set to add to the National Institute of Health’s (NIH's) research work, which already gets around $40 billion a year and helps a lot of early projects get off the ground.

But rather than just funneling more cash into the NIH, the Biden White House and ARPA-H's advocates want to ensure this remains a standalone new addition with siloed funding, and comes after the pandemic exposed the need for more and better research into diseases that still kills thousands of Americans every day.

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In what form and whether the new agency can be launched in the short term now remain unknown, and also comes as the NIH is looking for a new leader as Francis Collins M.D., Ph.D., is out the door come year-end.

“It would be tragic if momentum behind ARPA-H slows down,” said Liz Feld, president of the Suzanne Wright Foundation, which has advocated for a new health agency for years, speaking to Politico.

There is a push for a so-called Cures 2.0 behind the scenes, should the ARPA-H fail to materialize, building on the first Cures Act, the $4.8 billion bill passed five years ago that aimed to boost funding to key areas like cancer.