U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO), Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Fred Upton (R-MI) have joined forces to advance two critical health care bills aimed at revolutionizing America’s biomedical research capabilities and creating a new advanced research agency for health modeled after the Department of Defense’s highly successful DARPA program.
The move became clear during a key congressional subcommittee hearing on Tuesday in which the lawmakers all expressed support for each other’s legislation and vowed to work together to get both bills approved by the full House as soon as possible.
Once approved, the measures – the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health Act (H.R. 5585), introduced by Eshoo, and Cures 2.0 (H.R. 6000), introduced by DeGette and Upton – would not only create a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, known as ARPA-H, to find new cures and treatments for some of the world’s most difficult diseases, but would also provide the new agency the framework it needs to be successful.
“ARPA-H and Cures 2.0 are complementary and the chair will seek to move them together so that we can advance the legislation, not only through the full committee, but through the full House of Representatives,” said Eshoo, who serves as chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health.
“When Fred and I first teamed up in 2015 to draft the 21st Century Cures Act, we couldn’t have imagined the incredible success it would have for this country,” DeGette said during the hearing. “Because of it, we have a better understanding of the human brain, we’ve made huge strides in regenerative medicine, we’ve increased funding for Alzheimer’s research and cancer research.”
“We’ve got some real champions, bipartisan, on both sides of the Capitol looking for ARPA-H, knowing that DARPA was so successful,” Upton said.
The witnesses at Tuesday’s hearing agreed that the ARPA-H Act and Cures 2.0 should be seen as complementary pieces of legislation and should be moved together.
“The ultimate goal here is to improve health care for everybody in this country,” said Dr. Geoffrey Ling, a professor of Neurology at Johns Hopkins University, who testified at the hearing. “To do that, you have to attack the entire problem in total. ARPA-H is just a small piece, Cures 2.0 actually embraces much more of the health in form, the policy issues, working with FDA and a number of other things that are absolutely essential to realizing this ultimate goal that we have.”
The hearing of the Health subcommittee comes just days after President Biden announced new steps his administration was taking to reignite the Cancer Moonshot program, which was included in DeGette and Upton’s original 21st Century Cures Act, and called on Congress to advance legislation needed to create the new advanced research agency to “end cancer as we know it.”
Modeled after the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA – which has been responsible for developing some of the most consequential technologies of our time, including the Internet, GPS and self-driving cars – ARPA-H would be run by a relatively small number of program managers who would each be given a high degree of autonomy to choose which high-risk, high-reward projects to pursue.
Under the terms of the proposals, ARPA-H, like DARPA, would provide some of the nation’s greatest minds access to the federal government’s virtually limitless resources to make the impossible, possible; and help shape the future of medicine in the U.S. for many years to come.
While the ARPA-H Act would provide the authorization needed to create the new agency, Cures 2.0 would provide the framework needed to ensure it’s able to work seamlessly with other key health care agencies – such as the National Institutes of Health, FDA, CDC and more – to achieve its goals.
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