Pegasus Park, the life sciences campus located northwest of downtown Dallas, is in the running to become a major biomedical research hub of the federal government.
The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) was established last year by the Biden administration to make revolutionary advances in the application of biotechnology to health. It has a budget of $2.5 billion, per The Dallas Morning News.
Since last year, the Coalition for Health Advancement and Research in Texas (CHART) has been advocating for Texas cities to house one of three hubs of ARPA-H.
While the research agency’s administrative center will be at the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C., the other two hubs — one focusing on the customer experience and the other acting as an investment catalyst — are up for grabs.
In many ways, North Texas is already on a path to becoming a major player in the biotech industry.
North Texas is home to BioLabs, a coworking laboratory space for life science startups that covers over 37,000 square feet at Pegasus Park.
Last July, drug discovery biotech company Aakha Biologics left BioLabs’ incubator after two months to establish a permanent headquarters in Frisco, per The Dallas Express.
Moreover, last August, North Texas universities Dallas College and the University of Texas at Arlington received multimillion-dollar grants to help advance careers in biotechnology.
With this in mind, CHART sees Texas as the ideal location for ARPA-H.
“No other state can match all that Texas has to offer to ARPA-H — a highly diverse population, a world-class medical infrastructure, a central location easy to reach from both coasts, and a proven track record of deep commitment to medical research,” said Wayne R. Roberts, CEO of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, per CHART.
As Texas science advocates have refined their pitch over this past year, Dallas’ Pegasus Park has been zeroed in on as the proposed physical hub location for ARPA-H’s customer experience hub. This is a move supported not only by the city of Dallas but also by Austin and San Antonio.
“It’s a place that’s a neutral convener of various universities, investor capital, intellectual capital. It’s the place where action is taking place in biotech across the country right now in competition with the West Coast and East Coast,” said Tom Luce, CEO of biotech initiatives at Lyda Hill Philanthropies, per the DMN.
Several Texas lawmakers have also backed this, with Texas Reps. Colin Allred (D-Dallas) and Michael Burgess (R-Pilot Point) writing a letter inviting ARPA-H to visit Pegasus Park, per the DMN.
Conveniently located near the UT Southwestern Medical Center campus and both DFW airports, Pegasus Park is a large and extensive complex that spans more than 750,000 square feet.
In the coming months, a $32 million upgrade will add another 135,000 square feet of state-of-the-art facilities to the campus, per The Dallas Express.
While Pegasus Park’s hat was officially thrown into the ring for the customer experience hub on April 21, the competition is fierce, per the DMN. Houston is also competing for the customer experience hub, whose individual bid is backed by the Texas Medical Center.
Other major centers for biotechnology, such as Silicon Valley and North Carolina’s Research Triangle, are also likely going to give Pegasus Park a run for its money.
In an interview with Dallas Innovates, Luce explained that the ARPA-H selection committee is now reviewing applications and will name a handful of finalists by May 12. By the end of September, the bid winners for the two hubs will be selected from this pool.
Luce believes that Pegasus Park has strong odds of being selected, especially given that its bid is the result of a three-city collaboration.
“I think one of the strengths of our bid is ARPA H is designed to impact health outcomes of the diversity of the population of the country, and Texas is the most diverse state in the country,” Luce said, per Dallas Innovates. “We’re covering most of Texas so we have a diverse population that we are trying to serve.”