Dallas gets prestigious federal biotech research center after months of campaign


After months of a targeted campaign by Texas cities, universities and science advocates, a $2.5 billion federal biotech research agency will call Dallas home, cementing North Texas’ place among the nation’s premier life sciences hubs.

The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, known as ARPA-H, on Tuesday opened one of its three headquarters in the Lone Star State as part of the Biden administration’s effort to accelerate biomedical and health research. Announced the decision to establish. This hub will focus on improving customer experience, accessibility, and diversifying clinical trials for ARPA-H projects.

Dallas’ Pegasus Park will serve as the physical site of the headquarters, but the Texas hub will reach far beyond the sprawling 26-acre biotech campus. Austin, San Antonio and Houston make up the rest of the consortium, which is managed by the firm Advanced Technology International. Stakeholders in El Paso and College Station have also lent their support to the statewide team.

Pegasus Park is located across the Stemmons Freeway from Dallas’ expansive Medical District. It is about five miles from downtown and offers easy access to both major airports in North Texas.

Project managers will be assigned to the campus to take advantage of the diversity Texas offers in both demographics and type of research.

“One of the things the Dallas group was really able to show was that they were able to bring together communities from across the state and across the country,” said Craig Grawitz, director of ARPA-H’s Project Accelerator Transition Innovation Office. “And we saw firsthand that it wasn’t just these big cities, but also smaller communities, and that was such an important signal to us that the group we had in front of us really had the cohesive power that we were looking for.” Were. ,

Tuesday’s announcement also launched ARPANET-H, the new name for the agency’s “hub and spoke” model, which will include spoke sites around the country in addition to a specialized headquarters. The name alludes to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s original ARPANET project, a public computer network that eventually became the Internet.

“When ARPA-H first launched in 2022, the first goal was to catalyze the health ecosystem,” said ARPA-H Director Renée Wegrzyn. “We can’t do this without people from every sector of the American health ecosystem, and we can’t do this without people from every walk of life in America and those involved in transforming health solutions.”

The initial list of spoken sites spanned the entire country, including California, Alabama, Alaska and Wisconsin, among other places. Becoming spokes doesn’t cost these partners anything, which could be hospitals, health systems or universities. The closest communication point from Dallas is at Cherokee Nation Health Services in Tahlequah, Okla., about four and a half hours north.

Tom Luce, director of biotech initiatives at Lydia Hill Philanthropies, said a website taking applications for additional spoke locations will open tomorrow. The Dallas organization dedicated to funding life science discoveries led Dallas’ application to host ARPA-H.

Luce said he believes major players in the Dallas health care world will make good spokespersons, including UT Southwestern and Baylor Scott White Health. They specifically listed UT Southwestern Medical Center in Redbird, located south of Downtown Dallas, as a potential spokes site.

North Texas has long struggled to stake its claim in the world of biotech, and is going up against coastal research giants like Boston, Silicon Valley and North Carolina’s Research Triangle. According to research from real estate firm CBRE, driven by major medical institutions UT Southwestern in Dallas and the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth, DFW’s life sciences labor pool has grown by 17%, or 26,000 workers, since 2019. .

Luce said, “We wanted to make a statement, which Lydia Hill has been working on for 10 years or more, to really say that North Texas can and should be the bio-life science center for the country. Needed.” “And in our minds, having ARPA-H is a statement that Texas really is now the third coast option for bio-life sciences.”

Securing ARPA-H’s new home is a major win for Dallas, which lost a bid for Amazon’s second headquarters after being named a finalist nearly five years ago. The tech giant’s headquarters2 eventually moved to Arlington, VA.

“North Texas is home to the best and brightest researchers and innovators, and Dallas being selected as the site of the ARPA-H Customer Experience Center shows that we can still accomplish great things when we work together as Texans. Can,” said U.S. Representative Colin Allred. , D-Dallas. “Today’s announcement further solidifies our region as a national leader in health care research and groundbreaking new treatments. The hub will also bring great jobs and supercharge economic growth to a region where we are already growing.

The architects of the bid for ARPA-H originally submitted an open-ended application detailing the unique advantages of each major Texas city.

Wegrzyn announced in March that the agency would have three headquarters, including one already assigned to the Washington, DC area that would focus on partnerships. The exact location of the Capital Area Hub has not yet been determined.

Another center, to be located in Cambridge, Mass., will serve as an “investor accelerator” dedicated to bringing discoveries to market.

Dallas grants $8 million in incentives for Pegasus Park expansion

A Houston consortium led by the Texas Medical Center also competed for the customer experience center. Houston’s bid was eliminated after both the Dallas and Houston coalitions were selected to host site visits for the ARPA-H team, Luce said.

“It was disappointing. We wish he had not taken such a decision. We wanted it to be Texas’ bid from the beginning, but Houston decided it would be better to make their own bid,” Luce said. “But, we definitely welcome them back. He has a lot of offers.”

Lydia Hill Philanthropies was instrumental in not only creating the Dallas, Austin and San Antonio bids, but also in establishing North Texas as an incubator for biotech research.

The eponymous firm founded UT Southwestern’s bioinformatics department with a $25 million gift in 2015, and most recently, their organization founded 4 to help medical center researchers turn their findings into full-fledged companies. Partnered with Research Bridge Partners to invest million dollars.

North Texas politicians also got in on the application action, with several lawmakers from across the ideological spectrum writing a letter inviting Wegrzyn and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to tour Pegasus Park.

The Texas bid that ultimately won was a statewide effort that required coordination of university systems, cities, and hospitals. Luce said he and his team have a list of more than 600 people who applied to call after the announcement.

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