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Avrum Spira, M.D., M.Sc.



Avrum “Avi” Spira, M.D., M.Sc. is the Global Head of Johnson & Johnson’s cross-sector Lung Cancer Initiative (LCI). The vision for the LCI is to develop solutions that prevent, intercept and cure lung cancer, enabling a future vision where there is a world without this devastating disease. By focusing on where the best science and innovation is being developed around the world, internally or externally, the LCI will eliminate lung cancer one patient at a time by developing holistic, transformational solutions that meet the needs of lung cancer patients.

In addition to leading the LCI, Avi is an attending physician in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Boston University—Boston Medical Center (BMC).  Prior to joining Johnson & Johnson, he was the Director of the BMC Cancer Center, and was the founding Chief of the Division of Computational Biomedicine at Boston University. In these roles, Avi built a translational research program that focused on genomic alterations associated with smoking-related lung disease, leading to a molecular test for the early detection of lung cancer that has successfully translated into the clinic, as well as a novel therapeutic for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that is in preclinical development.

Avi’s research program is based on the paradigm that smoking and other inhaled carcinogens create a ‘field of molecular injury’ in epithelial cells that line the respiratory tract. By sampling these relatively accessible airway cells, his lab developed novel diagnostic and therapeutic biomarkers for lung cancer and COPD as well as a non-invasive approach for measuring the physiological response to a number of inhaled environmental exposures. He has co-founded both a molecular diagnostics company and a pharmaceutical company in order to translate these tools from “bench to bedside”.

Avi has served as Principal Investigator on grants from the National Cancer Institute; National Heart, Lung, Blood Institute; National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences; and the Department of Defense and has authored more than 125 peer-reviewed publications. He was a permanent member of the NIH’s Cancer Biomarker Study Section and currently serves as Senior Editor at Cancer Prevention Research, as well as Associate Editor at the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. He was elected a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation in 2010 and a member of the Association of American Physicians in 2017.

Avi obtained his M.D. from McGill University in Montreal and completed his internal medicine residency at the University of Toronto and his fellowship in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at BMC. During his fellowship, he obtained a master’s degree in Bioinformatics from Boston University.