PHILADELPHIA (June 29, 2022) – The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia today announced the region’s intention to seek to be the new home for a recently announced $1 billion federal agency, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), which is expected to be located outside of Washington D.C. In a letter sent to the U.S. Health & Human Services Department Secretary Xavier Becerra and signed by business, civic, and elected officials, signers tout the region’s expertise in cell & gene therapy and gene editing, its rank as one of the top eight life sciences markets in the U.S., and its deep scientific and medical ecosystem as reasons why this area stands out as the ideal location. The new agency, established by Congress earlier this year, will speed up biomedical and health cures and treatment by funding new and innovative research.
“We feel that Greater Philadelphia’s position as a global hub of research, talent, capital, and companies, combined with its second-to-none accessibility, give this region the power to forever transform how care is delivered to patients and essentially cure the incurable,” the letter states.
The officials point out several assets in the eleven-county, tri-state region, including 15 health systems, 1,800 life sciences companies with more than 70,000 employees, nearly 50 cell & gene therapy companies doing landmark research, and headquarters for biopharmaceutical leaders including AstraZeneca, Bristol Myers Squibb, GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and Merck. Capping off all these assets are the region’s prominent research institutions. These institutions include the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Coriell Institute, ChristianaCare’s Gene Editing Institute, Drexel University, Jefferson Health, Temple University, and the Wistar Institute. All contribute to a steady stream of scientific discoveries and technical expertise; most notably the recent mRNA technology that serves as the foundation for both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. The subsector also benefits from a robust talent pipeline, with nearly 10,000 workers holding specific expertise in cell & gene therapy.
“Today the Chamber is launching a multi-state, eleven-county regional effort to attract the new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health to the Greater Philadelphia region,” said Claire Marrazzo Greenwood, Executive Director and Senior Vice President of Economic Competitiveness for the Chamber. “The Chamber looks forward to continuing to build an even larger local coalition of supporters for this opportunity and to collaborating with federal, state, and local government officials in bringing ARPA-H’s headquarters to our region.”
The Philadelphia region has a long and deep track record of innovation. It is the home of the first FDA-approved cell therapy as well as the first FDA-approved gene therapy. To date, six FDA-approved cell & gene therapies have their origins in the region. Last year, the region attracted $12 billion in life sciences investment capital according to DealForma and was #1 in NIH grants received for cell & gene therapy companies.
Accessibility, given its central East Coast location, is an additional and significant regional asset. The letter states, “Our area serves as a global gateway accessible by air, sea, road, and both freight and inter-city passenger rail. Located directly adjacent to I-95 and only minutes from our major innovation hubs, Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) is easily accessible to our community, connects to more than 140 destinations worldwide and is already attracting life sciences companies that need proximity to an airport to move people and cargo – as critical as living cells – to the lab, patient, or destination in a prompt and timely manner.”
While the selection process for ARPA-H’s new headquarters is not yet clear, local leaders are extending an invitation to the HHS Secretary to visit the region and to experience all of the benefits it has to offer as a potential new ARPA-H home.
Jay Devine, D+P
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Editor’s Note: A copy of the letter sent to HHS Secretary Becerra is attached.