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What has Texas done to deserve ARPA-H?

Good question.

Texas’ top medical institutions are vying to become home to a new federal research institution that would distribute billions of dollars to help discover cures and treatments for the world’s most intractable diseases.

From MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to Southwestern Hospital in Dallas, the state’s leading medical institutions are making the case that Texas and its booming health care sector are a better choice than more established research centers such as Boston and New York to house President Joe Biden’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Health, or ARPA-H.

The headquarters would direct the spending of billions of dollars a year toward what the Biden administration describes as, “transformative high-risk, high-reward research,” with the aim of finding cures to cancer, Alzheimer’s and a variety of infectious diseases.

“Naturally people think about the East and West coast because of the size,” said Bill McKeon, president of Texas Medical Center in Houston. “But twice a week I get a call from VIPs who can go anywhere, and they’re trying to find a way to get into MD Anderson, Baylor or Methodist.”

The Biden administration already has $1 billion in appropriations to launch ARPA-H and set up a new headquarters, while awaiting action from Congress on an additional $5 billion funding request. If that funding is approved, a decision on the location is expected within the next six months.

So far, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra has only said ARPA-H will not be located at the National Institutes of Health headquarters, the government’s largest research agency with a budget of more than $45 billion, which is located outside Washington.

McKeon along with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner are making the case for Houston, which claims the world’s largest medical complex in Texas Medical Center, housing not only MD Anderson, Houston Methodist, Memorial Hermann and the Baylor College of Medicine, but also 18 other hospitals.

Their counterparts in Dallas, Austin and San Antonio are each making the case for their cities and medical facilities, including the University of Texas-Austin and the San Antonio Military Medical Center, the Defense Department’s largest health care institution.

But wherever it lands, the priority is getting ARPA-H in Texas, said Thomas Graham, spokesman for the Coalition for Health Advancement and Research in Texas, through which the four cities are working together.

Whether Biden would be willing to locate a major federal institution in a Republican-controlled state with a reputation for challenging federal laws and regulation — including the landmark Affordable Care Act — remains to be seen. The Texas coalition is already making its case to the Office of Science and Technology Policy, with assistance from Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn’s office.

“Our staff has engaged on their behalf with OSTP and asked that the process for selecting a site be fair and transparent,” a spokesman for Cornyn’s office said.

That’s the same John Cornyn who just spent a week asking why the queers should be allowed to get married while his junior colleague drooled and babbled about child predators, right? I mean look, we just got out from under the thumb of a “president” who “governed” by the motto of enriching your friends and punishing your enemies. That’s a bad way to be, and I don’t want that model to be emulated. All things being equal, the state of Texas has a good case, as one of several strong competitors, for this new facility. But all things are not equal, we don’t operate in a vacuum, and it grinds my gears more than a little to see this kind of “bipartisanship” from the likes of Cornyn when it’s over a prize he’s vying for, and never anything else. The list of grievances goes way beyond legal challenges to the ACA and other Biden initiatives – you know, abortion and voting rights and library books and “don’t say gay” and so on and so forth. How many potential ARPA-H employees do you think would reject out of hand right now the opportunity to work there if it meant having to live here? Maybe if Cornyn and his co-conspirators did a little work to make the state a better place, and maybe if they spent less time wrecking the country for the rest of us, I’d feel unconflicted about rooting for us to get this gem. Not right now, not as things stand, no way. I hate that I feel this way but here we are. You can learn more about ARPA-H here if you want.

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13 Comments

  1. Paul Kubosh says:

    Most Texans want things to come to Texas. It is just a better place to live. Most people see that. Why shouldn’t it come to Texas. The very best quality of life.

  2. Ross says:

    Paul, that may be true for old fat white guys. For others, not so much. Unless you like being treated like crap by the Texas Taliban that rules the state, and considers anyone not like them to be subhuman and not deserving of any respect whatsoever.

  3. Paul Kubosh says:

    You are what you profess to hate. So full of hate.

  4. Joel says:

    Paul: You may be right! But the only one using the wrd “hate” is you.

    Physician, heal thyself.

    Preferably silently.

  5. Flypusher says:

    Tell that to the parents of trans children.

    TX GOPers are reminding me of the Chinese autocrats- we’ll make economic promises for our favored group, but then don’t object when we stigmatize others.

  6. Flypusher says:

    Deflect and deny.

  7. Joel,

    Ross made fun of me. He called me an old fat white guy. That is like calling a girl a guy.

  8. Flypusher says:

    I share Charles’s conflicted feelings here. I worked at MDACC for 20 years in basic research, and more science jobs are great on multiple levels. But I can tell you, speaking as a member of the science tribe, that today’s batshit crazy GOP politics are a huge negative. Parents with advanced degrees don’t like public schools that ban books the way TX is trying to. They aren’t down with power-drunk assholes like Dan Patrick trying to tell colleges what they can or can’t teach. All the anti-immigration posturing is getting the attention of the foreign students and postdocs who would consider coming here. All these things undermine the notion of TX being a good place to work in you’re a scientist.

  9. mollusk says:

    As an old fat white guy myself, I agree with Ross’s comment and I don’t take it as a slam.

    The fact is, we old fat white guys have privileges and get passes that a lot of people – if not most people – don’t. As an old fat white guy I’m not nearly as worried about what the cop with the bad attitude is likely to do to me as I was back when I was a skinny young long haired white guy. I did not have nearly the difficulty breaking into my profession that women of my age did, much less that which was experienced by people who don’t look like me. I may have been condescended to in earlier years due to my age, but I never had to listen with a tight smile to sexist or racist comments directed at me by people in authority – though I certainly saw it happen.

    This old fat white guy’s grandparents were unaccompanied minor immigrants who came here for a better life, and faced down plenty of bigoted “jokes” and such with their heads held high. His dad brought his young family here at a time when this was clearly a place of opportunity, and which welcomed new faces (granted, as long as they weren’t overly tanned – it was the 60s and Houston was trying to shake itself loose of the South after all), and he and his children prospered.

    And now, this old fat white guy understands why half of the next generation of his extended family has left the state he and they grew up in, disgusted by a resurgence of the open, virulent bigotry he once thought was just an artifact of his youth. If he were a young skinny guy like them without the career and financial ties he now has, he’d think long and hard about joining them in leaving the state he grew up in and loves and was once proud of, but which he no longer recognizes in so many ways.

    And finally, this old fat white guy is damn sick and tired of other old white guys who whine about being “made fun of.” Quit being such snowflakes. Not everything is pointed individually at each and every one of you. But if you think that shoe is a bit too tight, maybe a little introspection wouldn’t be a bad thing.

  10. Flypusher says:

    Very well said. My experience is similar. My family moved to TX when I was 7 years old. I came to Houston in my early 20s to go to grad school. I got my degree back in the 90s, and graduation is the prime time to move elsewhere, if you’re so inclined. I liked Houston, there were job prospects, so I decided to stay and I put down some serious roots. I had several additional opportunities to go work elsewhere, but again elected to stay here. But a lot has changed for the worse since I last declined an offer to move. At this point I doubt I’ll get another one, but if I did, the calculus has changed. If I were a recent graduate now, I’d definitely be hunting jobs out of state.

  11. paul kubosh says:

    Mollusk,

    You have way to much time on your hands. LOL

  12. Ross says:

    Paul, I am also an old fat white guy. I was lucky to have parents who taught me to judge others on their actions and deeds and not on their race, creed, religion, or sexual orientation. I was born in Texas, but grew up in other states, returning for junior high school, then moving away for high school because of my Dad’s job. I came to Houston in 1976, and it’s been home ever since.

    This is not the Texas I’ve loved since I was young. It’s been taken over by rabid homophobic, racist, unreasonable people who claim to be Christian, although they appear to be something else. They wear their religion on their sleeve and claim it makes them better than the rest of us. They absolutely hate anyone who doesn’t look, sound or aspire to be just like them. I want my old state back, where small government meant small government, not “small if we agree with it”. Where rabid pro birth baby haters didn’t try to tell women what to do with their bodies, even if they disagreed. Where an orange hued huckster from the East would have been laughed out of town for being an idiot. Where George W Bush and Bob Bullock could work together to make this a better place.

    Now, we have despicable human beings like Dan Patrick telling us how to live our lives. We have Ken Paxton who never saw a law he wanted to follow himself, because laws only apply to other people. We have a Governor who was injured and compensated, and then did his best to remove the ability for others in a similar situation to also be compensated.

    I want my state back.

  13. Paul Kubosh says:

    Ross,

    I am sorry you feel so out of place. I hope you find peace.