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President names first ARPA-H director, announces new bioeconomy initiative

September 15, 2022
By: Emily Chesser

On the 60th anniversary of President Kennedy's Moonshot Address, President Biden traveled to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum to highlight progress toward his administration's Moonshot Program to combat cancer and expand the U.S. bioeconomy. This announcement included Biden's pick for the inaugural director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) and the signing of an executive order to institute a National Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative.

The purpose of ARPA-H is to expand equitable health and biomedical research in the United States. The president selected Dr. Renee Wegrzyn as his appointment to become the first Director of ARPA-H. According to a White House press release, Wegrzyn has experience as a leading biomedical scientist at Ginkgo Bioworks and worked in two similar agencies – the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA). The strategic nature of DARPA and IARPA served as inspiration for the development of ARPA-H, and Wegrzyn is charged with bringing this strategy to the research portfolio of ARPA-H.

The president also announced a new Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative to boost biotechnology and biomanufacturing within the United States. This new initiative was authorized by the CHIPS and Science Act to strengthen supply chains with biotechnology, grow domestic biomanufacturing, bring bio-based products to market, push regulatory innovation, and more. The initiative will be coordinated by the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (APNSA), the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy (APEP), and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

The initiative will be a joint effort from existing agencies, including the departments of agriculture, commerce, defense, health and human services, and the National Science Foundation, according to a White House Fact Sheet. The White House further defines more than a dozen programs across these agencies that will be considered part of this initiative; those programs have been appropriated more than $2.5 billion by previous legislation.

arpa-h, white house, bioeconomy, biotechnology