Biden appoints biotech pro Renee Wegrzyn to head new agency APRA-H

President Biden will on Monday appoint Dr. Renee Wegrzyn, an experienced biotech professional, to head an agency created in March to “push the boundaries” of medical health research and innovation.

Mr. Biden will detail Dr. Wegrzyn’s role as the inaugural director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, or ARPA-H, in a speech about his Boston Cancer Initiative. The agency’s portfolio and budget will be focused in part on creating programs and technologies that detect, prevent and treat diseases like cancer.

“Cancer doesn’t just affect Democrats and Republicans, but all Americans,” the White House said in a backgrounder ahead of the speech. “When we come together as a nation around ideas that unite us – like the fight against cancer – we can show the world that anything is possible.”

Mr. Biden said Dr. Wegrzyn worked at two institutions that inspired the creation of ARPA-H, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA). She is Vice President of Business Development at Ginkgo Bioworks and Head of Innovation at Concentric by Ginkgo, where she specializes in using synthetic biology to fight disease.

Mr Biden’s nomination will be part of his speech on the Cancer Moonshot Initiative, an effort to reduce the rate of cancer in the United States by at least 50% over the next 25 years.

Cancer research is personal to Mr. Biden. Her son, Beau, died of an aggressive form of brain cancer in 2015.

Mr. Biden will deliver his speech on the 60th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s lunar speech at Rice University, where he pledged to put a man on the moon and bring him back.

“When President Kennedy gave his Moonshot speech, the United States had the basics to know what was possible. However, there were major scientific and societal advances that needed to happen. As a nation, we needed to fully commit to a future in which moon travel was possible — and that’s exactly what we did,” the White House said. “Today, we have many of the building blocks needed to make meaningful progress in the fight against cancer, but we must come together to deliver on this promise equitably.”

Mr. Biden will also sign an executive order on Monday to boost domestic biotechnology and reduce U.S. reliance on foreign biomanufacturing.

The order will help secure U.S. leadership in the development and production of key technologies used in products ranging from jet fuels to pharmaceuticals, officials said.

“The United States truly has the best biotech innovators in the world,” a senior administration official said. “But we risk falling behind like we did in the semiconductor industry and the advanced telecommunications industry unless we translate biotech innovation into economic benefits for all Americans.”

“Other countries, including and particularly China, are aggressively investing in the sector, which poses risks to U.S. leadership unless we take the kinds of actions we are taking with this executive order,” he said. said the manager.

Also on Monday, Biden will say his tax and climate bill includes provisions that will reduce prescription costs for cancer patients; describe the National Cancer Institute’s efforts to detect cancer and train the next generation of cancer researchers; and highlight a Department of Defense program to understand cancers in service members exposed to toxic materials.

• Joseph Clark contributed to this report.

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