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October 15, 2019

AGA’s flagship research grant goes to

Get to know the nine researchers who received our 2019 AGA Research Scholar Award. We’re now accepting grant applications for 2020.
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The AGA Research Scholar Award, funded by the AGA Research Foundation, is our premier funding mechanism, providing $100,000 per year for three years to early-career faculty working toward independent careers in digestive disease research. Our AGA Research Scholar Award recipients have a proven track record of receiving substantial funding and leadership roles in GI following the receipt of their AGA award. We’re proud to showcase our 2019 winners — we’re confident they are future leaders in our field.

You could be featured next year. The 2020 AGA Research Scholar Award application deadline is Nov. 13, 2019. Learn more and apply for an AGA Research Scholar Award.


Parambir Dulai, MD

University of California, San Diego

Project title: Development and validation of machine learning optimized predictive models for response to different biologic agents in patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis

Dr. Dulai is using his grant to build and refine a decision support platform to help providers and patients navigate the complex landscape of choosing between available biologics for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Amy Hemperly, DO

University of California, San Diego

AGA-Rady Children’s Institute for Genomic Medicine Research Scholar Award in Pediatric Genomics

Project title: Integration of pharmacogenomics and pharmacometabolomics with pharmacokinetics for biomarker discovery in pediatric inflammatory bowel disease

Dr. Hemperly’s research assesses the influence of genetic variations and metabolic and microbial changes on response to anti-TNF therapy in pediatric IBD patients. This work will ultimately elucidate factors that improve a patient’s response to therapy.

Rodney Infante, MD, PhD

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas

Project title: Regulation of gastrointestinal cancer cachexia by a tumor-adipose-hypothalamic axis

Dr. Infante and his lab will use the AGA grant to improve our understanding of the mechanism and clinical relevance of cachexia-associated anorexia and tissue wasting in order to identify effective therapeutic targets.

Suraj Patel, MD, PhD

Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston

Project title: Hepatic IRF3 is a transcriptional regulator of steatosis and insulin resistance in NAFLD

Dr. Patel’s research focuses on the role of innate immunity in cellular metabolism and insulin resistance. Specifically, he’s interested in determining how chronic inflammation fuels the genetic and epigenetic changes we see in overnutritional states such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Jason Pitarresi, PhD

University of Pennsylvania Health System, Philadelphia

AGA-Bern Schwartz Family Fund Research Scholar Award in Pancreatic Cancer

Project title: PTHLH drives epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and metastasis in pancreatic cancer

With this funding, Dr. Pitarresi will continue on his quest to identify novel drivers of pancreatic cancer development and metastasis using genetically engineered mouse models and patient-derived 3D organoids. Dr. Pitarresi is hoping that anti-PTHLH may fill a treatment void and ultimately increase the quality of life in these patients.

Eric Shah, MD, MBA

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, New Hampshire

AGA-Shire Research Scholar Award in Functional GI and Motility Disorders*

Project title: Office-based anorectal testing to diagnose evacuation disorders and predict outcomes with biofeedback therapy: The Rectal Expulsion Device (RED)

Dr. Shah’s research aims to validate a diagnostic test to triage patients with chronic constipation to the most effective treatment in general GI practice. This work will ultimately help patients with motility and functional bowel conditions and their providers reach a confident diagnosis and understand their treatment options.

*Funded by Shire Plc, now part of Takeda

Shailja Shah, MD, MPH

Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee

Project title: Defining host-specific genetic and non-genetic determinants of Helicobacter pylori eradication failure using a large prospective cohort and genomic biobank

Dr. Shah’s research is focused on personalizing the clinical management of H. pylori such that eradication efforts can be optimized and targeted to the less than 1-3% of the estimated 4.4 billion individuals infected with H. pylori who are most at risk for complications, such as gastric cancer, and avoided in those who are unlikely to benefit and may even experience harm from eradication therapy.

Xiao Tan, MD, PhD

Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston

AGA-Takeda Pharmaceuticals Research Scholar Award in Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Project title: Paper-based diagnostics of microbial and host biomarkers to predict responsiveness to IBD therapy

Dr. Tan will develop low-cost, point-of-care microbiome diagnostics to ultimately help physicians’ make diagnoses, monitor and select treatment for patients with IBD.

Michael Thompson, MD, PhD

Washington University, Saint Louis, Missouri

Project title: Mechanisms of altered bile acid homeostasis and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in offspring exposed to maternal obesity Dr. Thompson’s research is focused on how perinatal exposures impact risk for metabolic liver disease in offspring.

In 2019, the AGA Research Foundation was proud to provide more than $3 million in research funding to 52 investigators. See the full list of awardees. To help provide funding for future awards, make a donation to the AGA Research Foundation.

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AGA Research Foundation
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