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AGA supports creating new government agency to accelerate health breakthroughs

ARPA-H could bring together the diverse scientific community to focus on high risk, high reward priorities.
Bishrs ARPA-H remarks
Bishrs ARPA-H remarks

NIH recently led a public listening session on the potential creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), a major priority for the Biden administration. NIH Director Francis Collins invited AGA to provide input regarding the development and implementation of this new agency. AGA chair, Bishr Omary, MD, PhD, AGAF, provided remarks supporting creation of a new agency. AGA was the only GI society present.

“It is our mission is to empower clinicians and researchers to improve digestive health, with a specific vision to create a world free from digestive diseases. We believe ARPA-H would also advance this mission,” said Dr. Omary.

Key points:

  • AGA recommends transparency in the agency’s selection criteria and decision-making process for agency goals and investment strategies.
  • ARPA-H should collaborate with stakeholders to identify areas of focus and to ensure the agency’s goals are attainable, comprehensive and impactful.
  • It is essential that ARPA-H must have consistent and sustainable increases in federal funding that do not take away from the funding levels of other federally supported research efforts at NIH or otherwise.

“We ask that the principles ARPA-H uses to prioritize funding decisions incorporate a definition of “need” that includes mortality rates and areas where tools are lacking, instead of solely focusing on incidence,” said Dr. Omary who listed cancers of the pancreas, colon, rectum, stomach and esophagus as prime examples. “GI diseases, like nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and inflammatory bowel disease are increasing and exacerbating the health disparities that plague underserved and underinsured populations and communities of color.”

The creation of this agency is a major priority for the Biden administration. Initial funding for ARPA-H ($3 billion) was included in the recently passed House Labor-HHS appropriations bill. Additionally, Reps. Diana DeGette, D-CO, and Fred Upton, R-MI, originators of the 21st Century Cures Act, are also supporters of the agency and have included language to create ARPA-H in the Cures 2.0 Act discussion draft. AGA also provided comments on ARPA-H to the Hill to provide the GI perspective.

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