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Baltimore sets sights on headquarters of new NIH agency

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, shown here in a 2019 photo, and the rest of coalition believe Baltimore would be a good home for ARPA-H's headquarters because of its location — there are more than 60 federal agencies and research labs within 30 miles of the city. (The Daily Record/File photo)

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, shown here in a 2019 photo, and the rest of coalition believe Baltimore would be a good home for ARPA-H’s headquarters because of its location — there are more than 60 federal agencies and research labs within 30 miles of the city. (The Daily Record/File photo)

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and a coalition of organizations are pushing for the National Institutes of Health’s next agency to open its headquarters in the city.

It joins a number of other cities and states across the country vying for the headquarters, including Chicago, St. Louis and Texas. 

Legislation authorizing the establishment of the new agency, called the Advanced Research Project Agency for Health (ARPA-H), passed in March. The agency will invest in new technologies and other scientific breakthroughs in the fields of health and medicine in hopes of accelerating innovations that could significantly benefit patients nationwide.  

“Baltimore has many wonderful assets that would prove invaluable to and supportive of ARPA-H, including world-class educational and health care facilities, excellent medical research institutions, and a diverse and talented workforce,” Scott said in a press release on Thursday. “In addition, the city’s life sciences, technology and entrepreneurial ecosystem make Baltimore an ideal location for ARPA-H. Attracting this institution will continue our city’s renaissance by bringing jobs, investment and innovation to Baltimore.” 

The Baltimore Development Corporation will lead the city’s push to host the headquarters. Local partners such as Greater Baltimore Committee, UpSurge Baltimore, the Abell Foundation, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland, Baltimore and Morgan State University will also be involved in the effort. 

Scott and the rest of coalition believe Baltimore would be a good home for ARPA-H’s headquarters because of its location — there are more than 60 federal agencies and research labs within 30 miles of the city. And between Johns Hopkins University, the top research institution in the nation, and two biotechnology parks, Baltimore is already an established site for health care research and innovation. 

The city is also already home to three NIH Intramural Research Program Institutes: the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Human Genome Research Institute. 

“Our deep legacy and ongoing leadership in health care innovation, longstanding partnerships with federal agencies, combined with our affordable, strategic location in the mid-Atlantic and easy access by rail, air and highway, make Baltimore an ideal place to locate ARPA-H and its employees,” BDC President and CEO Colin Tarbert said in a press release. “As part of our work on the city’s comprehensive economic development strategy, Baltimore Together, we’ve identified ways to further promote and support life sciences in Baltimore and welcome this collaborative approach to bring ARPA-H to the city.” 

In a recent article on the health and medicine news site STAT, experts said they don’t understand why so many states and cities were vying for the ARPA-H headquarters. The headquarters won’t be full of laboratories and researchers, as it seems some jurisdictions are picturing, according to the article. Instead, it will be office space inhabited by employees deciding what universities and companies to fund and will likely have little impact on whatever city in which it ends up. 

Ultimately, the director of the agency will decide where it will be headquartered.