Labcorp on Wednesday started testing for monkeypox using CDC's orthopoxvirus tests, in today's bite-sized hospital and health industry news from the District of Columbia, New Jersey, and North Carolina.
- District of Columbia: Several states have entered a bidding war for the opportunity to house the headquarters of the multibillion-dollar Advanced Research Project Agency for Health (ARPA-H)—a new science agency that’s structure has not yet been finalized by Congress. The agency will focus on focus on health care and technology innovations, searching for and funding different ways to cure a variety of diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and diabetes. Several states and cities, including Georgia, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Cleveland, and Philadelphia are making a case to HHS for hosting the agency, many through bipartisan letters from congressional leaders, Axios reports. The agency, which is being modeled after the Pentagon's research arm, DARPA, would be a standalone agency because of a bill passed by the House in June. While the exact structure of the agency is still undecided, ARPA-H's director will report to the secretary of HHS. According to an NIH spokesperson, they "have made no commitments as to the physical location of ARPA-H. The decision on its location will ultimately be up to the inaugural Director in consultation with the Secretary." (Hurt, Axios, 7/6)
- New Jersey: Merck is currently in advanced negotiations to acquire cancer biotech company Seagen, with the goal of agreeing on a purchase in the coming weeks—a deal that could be valued at roughly $40 billion. The companies are aiming to close the deal on or before the announcement of Merck's quarterly earnings, which are set to be released July 28. Currently, there is no guarantee the companies will come to an agreement on the takeover. Any proposed agreement is expected to be scrutinized by antitrust officials. Still, shareholders of both companies have had a positive reaction to the possibility of a deal, with Merck and Seagen stocks rising since the deliberations were first reported in June. If the acquisition goes through, Merck will be able to increase its lineup of cancer drugs, and potentially offset the hit to the company's sales when Keytruda, its leading cancer drug, loses patent protection—something analysts expect by the end of this decade. (Lombardo et al., Wall Street Journal, 7/7)
- North Carolina: Labcorp on Wednesday became the first national laboratory to offer CDC's orthopoxvirus test, with plans to have capacity for 10,000 tests per week—a move that will double the current testing capacity of CDC's lab network. According to Labcorp CMO Brian Caveney, tests will initially be conducted at the company's largest facility in North Carolina and expand to additional locations as needed. Samples will be accepted from anywhere in the United States, including specimens from Labcorp customers and overflow from public laboratories. The company will report results electronically and send them to proper jurisdictions as directed by CDC. "The ability of commercial labs to test for monkeypox is a key pillar in our comprehensive strategy to combat this disease," said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. "This will not only increase testing capacity but will make it more convenient for providers and patients to access tests by using existing provider-to-lab relationships." (Cortigiano, Becker's Hospital Review, 7/6; Choi, The Hill, 7/6; Johnson, Triad Business Journal, 7/7)