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World Without Disease Accelerator Leadership


The WWDA leadership team, a diverse group of experts globally situated within Janssen and Johnson & Johnson Innovation locations, is united by one vision: to lead a new paradigm in health care through the interception of disease.

World Without Disease Accelerator

World Without Disease Accelerator




As Global Head of the World Without Disease Accelerator (WWDA), Ben Wiegand, Ph.D. leads a team focused on catalyzing a paradigm shift from disease care to health care through novel approaches to prevention, interception and cure. Ben’s work is driven by a vision to create a world without disease and stop, reverse or inhibit an individual’s progression to disease.

With more than 20 years at Johnson & Johnson, Ben brings a range of experience in identifying and piloting new business and funding models, accelerating growth opportunities and scouting new and emerging scientific areas to deliver innovative solutions. In prior roles, Ben served as Global Head, Janssen Disease Interception Accelerator, as well as Vice President, Global Open Innovation and New Business Models Research & Development for the J&J Group of Consumer Companies. His responsibilities included the creation of disruptive innovations and the progression of emerging scientific areas, like the microbiome and big data, to advance healthcare.

Ben has served as General Manager and Vice President, Science and Innovation, J&J Wellness & Prevention, Inc. During his tenure with Wellness & Prevention, Ben led science and innovation efforts to support the enterprise, including oversight of an innovation development program and measurement/reporting of industry-leading organizational outcomes. He also held responsibility for the Employer Franchise, focused on providing health and performance solutions to large companies to help manage healthcare costs and improve employee productivity.

Ben earned a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the University of Illinois and a Master of Arts and a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Harvard University.

Ben Wiegand, Ph.D.

Global Head
World Without Disease Accelerator



As Global Head of Operations, World Without Disease Accelerator (WWDA), Rae Ann has overall strategy realization and operational responsibility for the WWDA and the Lung Cancer Initiative at Johnson & Johnson. Her team delivers strategic planning, business operations, program management, operational excellence and external alliance management for cross-sector initiatives focused on preventing, intercepting or curing disease. 

Rae Ann has over 20 years of experience in healthcare, including 15+ years at Johnson & Johnson, where she has led quality, innovation, operations and strategy functions in all three sectors. Prior to leading strategy and operations for cross-sector R&D initiatives, Rae Ann was the head of Strategy, Insights & Innovation for the Global Quality Services organization. Prior to that, Rae Ann was an Innovation Leader in Consumer R&D where she focused on developing a digital health platform to improve health outcomes and quality of life for women during pregnancy. Rae Ann also spent 3 years leading Quality, Regulatory, Compliance and Operations on the Wellness and Prevention leadership team. Prior to that, Rae Ann was part of an internal “startup” where she obtained FDA clearance for the InTouch diabetes management solution. Rae Ann started her J&J career as a Quality Director with McNeil, where her responsibilities included Consumer QA strategy, IT Compliance and External Manufacturing QA.  Before joining J&J, Rae Ann held various leadership roles at Pfizer and Merck. 

Rae Ann holds a B.S. in Neuroscience from the University of Scranton and an M.S. in Engineering from Lehigh University.

Rae Ann Cook

Global Head
World Without Disease Accelerator



As Global Head, Immunosciences, World Without Disease Accelerator (WWDA), Murray leads the development of a portfolio of WWDA therapeutic interventions, based on immunomodulation, mechanisms of chronic inflammation, and nutritional and drug discovery platforms, to better understand early-disease initiating events and ultimately develop novel therapies to prevent, intercept or cure disease.

With over 30 years of industry experience in global pharmaceutical roles, Murray brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise in drug discovery and early development, with a track record of driving scientific innovation in internal programs and through external partnerships. In his ten-year tenure at Janssen, Murray was Head of Immunology Discovery, responsible for leading global teams to identify transformational therapies in immune and inflammatory-mediated diseases. In parallel, he led the formation of Janssen Immunosciences to pursue innovative approaches to antigen-specific targeting in autoimmunity and cancer.

Prior to joining Janssen, Murray was Head of Immunology Discovery for Bristol Myers Squibb, where he led several programs in early clinical development. Before relocating to the USA in 2000, Murray held positions of increasing responsibility at GlaxoWellcome Research and Development in the UK, with a major focus on respiratory diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Murray holds a BSc from the Department of Biochemistry, University of Glasgow, Scotland, and a Ph.D. from the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (now Cancer Research UK), London.

Murray McKinnon, Ph.D.

Global Head
World Without Disease Accelerator



As Global Head, Microbiome Solutions, World Without Disease Accelerator (WWDA), Dirk strengthens Janssen and Johnson & Johnson leadership, scientific understanding and capabilities in this emerging area of science.

Prior to this, Dirk held a similar role as Global Head, Janssen Human Microbiome Institute. Before joining Janssen and Johnson & Johnson, he served as Senior Group Leader of Microbial Systems and Communities at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. In this position, Dirk acted as a scientific liaison between different organizational components, including the Broad Institute’s data generation platforms and both clinical and analytical collaborators on a number of microbiome-related projects. Dirk’s research efforts at the Broad Institute included the characterization of the microbial imbalance associated with diseases such as Crohn’s disease, type 1 diabetes and colorectal cancer. He was also involved with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Human Microbiome Project (HMP), holding a leading role in the Data Analysis Working Group, consisting of over 50 investigators focused on human microbiome research.

Dirk received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Ghent University (UGent), Belgium, and completed postdoctoral training at UGent and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in bioinformatics, comparative and evolutionary genome analysis and microbial ecology.


Dirk Gevers, Ph.D.

Global Head
MIcrobiome Solutions
World Without Disease Accelerator



As Global Head, Data Sciences & Prevention Biomarkers, World Without Disease Accelerator (WWDA), Patrick leads a team focused on developing strategic data science efforts to enable the prevention, interception and cure of the WWDA’s targeted disease areas of focus. This includes identifying relevant cohorts, clinical trial designs, and predictive analytic approaches, as well as developing key biomarker discovery and subsequent validation efforts to drive regulatory and clinical submissions. Patrick also helps identify emerging bioinformatic, machine learning and other data science platforms for investment and integration into the overall WWDA efforts.  

Patrick has over 15 years of experience in healthcare, leading data sciences teams across the spectrum of healthcare research, from genomics-based target and pathway identification to observational patient studies.  Prior to joining Johnson & Johnson, Patrick held a leadership role at Celgene, where he led the real-world data organization responsible for building comparator patient cohorts to support the clinical, market access and regulatory needs of Celgene’s CAR T therapies.  In that leadership position, he also oversaw the establishment, alignment and implementation of a company-wide stage-gate process to guide the creation and use of real-world evidence supporting Celgene’s entire oncology pipeline.

Patrick is a recognized change agent with experience that spans start-ups, integrations, pharmaceutical companies and strategic partnerships. Prior to joining Celgene, Patrick co-founded a start-up called Shift Medical, focused on establishing an on-demand, digital market place connecting nurses with open shifts at local hospitals and nursing homes.  Prior to founding Shift Medical, Patrick spent seven years at Merck & Co where he led informatics teams in both the IT and R&D organizations.

Within IT, Patrick managed the build versus buy strategy in support of Merck’s target identification and validation pipeline; this included the integration of informatics capabilities during the Merck and Schering merger.  Within R&D, Patrick and his team supported the neuroscience therapeutic area, conducting integrative genomics analyses to identify the pathways underlying the onset and treatment of schizophrenia.

Patrick started his career at Rosetta Inpharmatics, a genomics start-up based in Seattle that was acquired by Merck. He holds a B.S. in Biochemistry from Washington State University and a Ph.D. in Biostatistics from Harvard University.

Patrick Loerch, Ph.D.

Global Head
Data Sciences & Prevention Biomarkers
World Without Disease Accelerator



As Head of the Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) Venture within the World Without Disease Accelerator (WWDA), Joe leads efforts utilizing the rapidly emerging science of immune diagnostics and precision intervention to find solutions to intercept T1D.

Prior to joining the WWDA, Joe held a similar role for the Janssen Disease Interception Accelerator, and before that, served as Scientific Director, Cardiovascular and Metabolism Therapeutic Area (TA) within Janssen Research & Development, where his responsibilities included initiating innovative new target programs. He also served as the Janssen Steering Committee Representative for the Accelerated Medicines Partnership with the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Before joining Janssen, Joe spent more than two years as Senior Director, Cure and Prevent Therapies at the JDRF, a leading non-profit T1D research organization. In this role, Joe oversaw both the immune and beta cell replacement efforts and maintained responsibility for developing and implementing JDRF’s T1D interception and biomarker strategies.

Joe has more than 20 years of experience in both industry and non-profit drug discovery research in immunology and diabetes. He is the author of more than 50 peer-reviewed scientific articles, several book chapters and is an inventor on more than 30 patents and patent applications.

Joe earned his Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego and San Diego State University.

Joseph Hedrick, Ph.D.

Type 1 Diabetes Venture
World Without Disease Accelerator



As Global Head, Healthy Baby Initiative, World Without Disease Accelerator (WWDA), Dick is leading a strategy focused on changing the trajectory of health for children by targeting childhood diseases where there exists an understanding of root cause with novel solutions. He is also guiding the development of a robust external ecosystem to accelerate the science and create partnership opportunities together with Johnson & Johnson Innovation.

Since 2016, Dick has served as a consultant for the WWDA, contributing his distinguished medical and research expertise in pediatric immunology, and collaborating closely with the Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) Venture and the Microbiome Solutions team. Prior to joining Janssen, Dick served as Chief Scientific Officer at JDRF, where he oversaw the organization’s research strategy and helped facilitate projects with Janssen focused on preventing the onset of T1D.

Before joining JDRF in 2003, Dick was the founding director of the Center for Human Genetics and Molecular Pediatric Disease and professor of pediatrics, microbiology and immunology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. During his 26-year affiliation, he served as director of the Strong Children’s Research Center and chief of the division of pediatric immunology, allergy and rheumatology. His research program at the University focused on immune responses to bacterial vaccines and B cell immunity.

In 1983, Dick was a scientific co-founder of Praxis Biologics, the biotechnology company responsible for developing and bringing to market a new vaccine that has markedly reduced the incidence of bacterial meningitis in children. Dick has served on the National Advisory Allergy and Infectious Diseases Council of the National Institutes of Health, and as a visiting associate professor of biochemistry and biophysics at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. Dick received his M.D. from Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, and completed pediatric training and a fellowship in immunology at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Richard (Dick) Insel, M.D.

Global Head
Healthy Baby Initiative
World Without Disease Accelerator



Avrum “Avi” Spira, M.D., M.S.C. 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.

Avrum Spira, M.D., M.S.C.

Global Head
The Lung Cancer Initiative at Johnson & Johnson



As Head of the Colorectal Cancer Interception team within Janssen Oncology, Kurt leads a team focused on intercepting the initiation and progression of colorectal cancer (CRC), in collaboration with the World Without Disease Accelerator. Kurt’s focus spans areas like genetics, inflammation and microbiome changes that are associated with the development of CRC.

Before joining Janssen Oncology, Kurt led the Computational Sciences team within Janssen Discovery Sciences, supporting data collection, integration and translation across multiple therapeutic areas. Prior to that, Kurt served as Head of Translational Sciences for the Molecular Medicine Unit at GlaxoSmithKline, leading both computational and laboratory scientists with a focus on uncovering molecular mechanisms of patient response, therapeutic resistance and novel combination development. While at GSK, Kurt also served as Head of Cancer Metabolism Biology.

Prior to that, Kurt was a professor at the Department of Biochemistry and Radiation Oncology at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center. His academic work primarily focused on cancer genetics, epigenetics, therapeutic resistance, synthetic lethality and novel model systems. 

Kurt received his Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Medicine in 2001 from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine with a focus on cancer epigenetics and completed postdoctoral training at The Sydney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center with a focus on colon cancer genetics and therapeutics.

Kurtis (Kurt) Bachman, Ph.D.

Colorectal Cancer Interception
Janssen Oncology



As Oncology Commercial Disease Area Leader, Solid Tumor Targeted Therapies, Amy is the global oncology strategic leader responsible for the commercial optimization of the solid tumor disease area portfolio. In addition, Amy and her team lead the commercial strategy for the Immune Therapy, Lung Cancer Initiative and Colorectal Cancer Interception efforts. 

Amy has over 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, all in oncology, where she has covered both solid and hematologic malignancies throughout her career. Her commercial roles have spanned multiple functions, including sales, in-line marketing, new business development and global strategic marketing. She has been with Janssen for 15 years. Prior to her current role, Amy served as the New Products Leader for Oncology at Merck for six years, with strategic commercial responsibility for the early oncology portfolio.

Amy holds a master’s degree in chemistry from State University of New York (SUNY) Stony Brook. 

Amy Han

Oncology Commercial Disease Area Leader
Solid Tumor Targeted Therapies