Jun 30, 2022 - Business

North Carolina to compete for new $1 billion federal agency

Illustration of a hand holding a microscope slide with a liquid sample forming a dollar sign.
Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

North Carolina is vying to house the headquarters of a new federal agency that will seek to cure major diseases.

Why it matters: The Advanced Research Project Agency for Health, known as ARPA-H, will be the first to focus on breakthrough healthcare and technology innovations — meaning it will be looking for and funding ways to cure cancer, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and more.

  • The agency is being modeled after the defense research agency, DARPA, and a federal spending bill has set aside $1 billion to launch it.

Driving the news: State politicians and economic development officials tell Axios Raleigh they’re working on a proposal calling for the federal government to select North Carolina as the location for ARPA-H's headquarters.

Yes, but: North Carolina has competition. Several states are also preparing bids for the HQ, including Massachusetts, California and Texas, STAT News reported.

  • Georgia is also throwing its hat in the ring, with a bipartisan lobbying effort already underway, Axios Atlanta reported.

What's next: North Carolina leaders are planning a similar pitch, a spokesperson for Rep. David Price, who represents part of Durham, Orange and Wake counties in Congress, told Axios.

  • Statewide agencies, such as the N.C. Biotechnology Center and N.C. Department of Commerce, are also expected to get involved.
  • "[W]e're in close communication with the North Carolina Congressional delegation and statewide partners and monitoring progress" of ARPA-H's plans, state Commerce spokesperson David Rhoades told Axios. "We're confident the advantages North Carolina offers any company or organization engaged in life sciences research are clear."

What they're saying: The Triangle should stand out because of its strong research universities, like Duke and UNC, and for being home to a mix of established and startup biotech companies, says Scott Levitan, the CEO of the Research Triangle Foundation, the not-for-profit that manages Research Triangle Park.

  • "They're looking for established and thriving biotech centers. How could we not put ourselves in the mix?" Levitan tells Axios.

Big picture: The details of ARPA-H's structure are still in the works, including whether its director needs to be confirmed by the Senate.

  • The agency was formally created and an interim director was named last month, but the timeline of a headquarters decision remains unclear.
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