Opinion: Georgia’s best choice for new health agency HQ

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Our state offers the precise mix of ingredients needed to push the limits of biomedical and health research to cure major diseases and change lives.

In a time when unanimous agreement is hard to come by, support for this idea was easy: Georgia is the best choice for the headquarters for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), the nation’s first federal research agency charged with delivering breakthrough innovations in health outcomes and health equity.

In June, every member of Georgia’s Congressional delegation expressed support in a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra outlining why Georgia should be at the top of the list for ARPA-H headquarters. ARPA-H sits at the epicenter of healthcare, technology, innovation, talent and diversity — as does Georgia.

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

The Metro Atlanta Chamber and several of our board members, including Fortune 500 companies; nationally recognized higher education institutions; and leaders in tech, health, education, innovation and research, also signed a letter outlining why Georgia should top the list for ARPA-H headquarters.

Our chamber’s 163-year history is rich with public-private partnerships that successfully addressed challenges in our healthcare ecosystem and elsewhere. Georgia offers the precise mix of mission-fueling ingredients ARPA-H needs to push the limits of biomedical and health research to cure major diseases and change lives. Georgia is already home to some of the brightest and most-driven researchers in the world, backed by companies and higher education institutions that foster communities of innovation.

Notable is Emory University Hospitals’ breakthrough treatment of U.S. Ebola patients in the hospital’s Serious Communicable Diseases Unit, created with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 12 years prior. True to this collaborative history, our business, academic and research communities stand ready to champion ARPA-H’s mission by fostering an environment seeking innovative and inclusive health outcomes.

In fact, our state’s researchers and academic institutions are already preparing for ARPA-H and how we can best support its mission through a workshop at Georgia Tech on what it’s like to serve as a program manager, a critical position that helps set the agenda for this important new agency.

Georgia is built for global health impact. From world-class clinical and research facilities to the headquarters of the CDC and a host of life science business giants, Georgia boasts a wealth of infrastructure that will enhance ARPA-H’s ability to solve health challenges. Our region’s proven experience as the nation’s center for global health will help ensure ARPA-H’s medical breakthroughs are obtainable, sustainable and equitable. Our work is truly global, serviced by Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, a key driver of global commerce and connectivity.

Our region’s resources include organizations such as the Center for Global Health Innovation, CARE and The Carter Center. With assets like these, it’s no wonder Georgia is the No. 1 state for business for the ninth year in a row and that our economic development pipeline is full. Companies from key industries, including technology, logistics and life sciences choose Georgia for their headquarters or expansions. Our entrepreneurship and startup community are bolstered by growing tech incubation and venture capital firms. Our unemployment rate is also below the national average and the cost of living is even lower than in many peer states.

The success of our ecosystem enjoys robust, bipartisan investment in training the world’s best and most diverse talent across the science, health, engineering and technology sectors. Top-ranked public and private academic research institutions fuel a formidable local talent pipeline already engaged in cutting-edge learning and research. Our network of Historically Black Colleges and Universities generates diverse talent unlike that of any other city — talent that will zealously support ARPA-H’s mission of delivering better health outcomes across socioeconomic, racial, gender and geographic divides.

Money.com recently named Atlanta the Best Place to Live in the U.S., highlighting our culture and sense of community. From our pivotal history during the Civil Rights movement to hosting the Centennial Olympic Games, the eyes of the world have been on Atlanta. Our business community has united to put its best foot forward.

Historically, no other region has banded together in its advancement as we have. The committed, bipartisan leadership of Sen. Raphael Warnock, Sen. Jon Ossoff, Rep. Buddy Carter and the entire Georgia Congressional delegation, which signed a unanimous letter of support for headquartering ARPA-H in Georgia, highlights our collective desire to ensure ARPA-H succeeds. Our delegation’s advocacy efforts to bring this groundbreaking facility to Georgia set us apart.

Our letter to Secretary Becerra offers a small sample of what’s offered in metro Atlanta and Georgia. The future of our state holds much promise as we continue to advance global health innovation and transformation. Dozens of companies relocated or expanded here this year alone, creating thousands of jobs. They join a powerful partnership with dynamic leaders determined to create initiatives that courageously move Georgia forward.

Let’s add ARPA-H to this impressive list of thriving Georgia businesses and organizations.

Katie Kirkpatrick is president and CEO of the Metro Atlanta Chamber.