News Release

BU researcher receives entrepreneur award from the American Thoracic Society

Grant and Award Announcement

Boston University School of Medicine

(Boston) -- Avrum Spira, MD, MSc, professor of medicine, pathology and bioinformatics at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), is the inaugural recipient of the Research Innovation and Translation Achievement Award from the American Thoracic Society (ATS). Spira, who also directs the BU-BMC (Boston Medical Center) Cancer Center, was recognized for the translational impact his work has had on early detection of lung cancer as well as his development of new drugs for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

After completing his pulmonary and critical care medicine fellowship and receiving a master's degree in bioinformatics at BU, Spira characterized the first human airway transcriptome (a collection of all the gene activity in a cell) to determine the reversible and permanent genomic changes that occur in the airway with smoking. Following the hypothesis that smoking creates a molecular 'field of injury' throughout the airway of patients with lung cancer and COPD, he used bronchoscopic brushings of the large airways to identify an RNA biomarker that can detect the presence of lung cancer deep within the lung, in a test now used clinically called Percepta®.

Hypothesizing that the field of injury extends to the entire upper respiratory tract, his lab has recently developed a gene expression signature in nasal brushings that may serve as a noninvasive biomarker for diagnosing lung cancer in lesions found on chest imaging.

"Avrum Spira is a visionary in lung genomics," said David Center, MD, associate provost of Translational Research at BUSM. "He is a gifted computational mathematician, educator and active intensivist who has brought science to the clinic and inspired dozens of trainees. There are few whose discoveries have made a greater direct impact on diagnosis and daily care of patients with lung cancer and COPD in the past 20 years."


About the ATS

The ATS was founded in 1905 as the American Sanatorium Association to prevent, control, and treat tuberculosis; renamed the American Trudeau Society in 1938 and the American Thoracic Society in 1960. Originally the medical section of the American Lung Association, the Society became independently incorporated in 2000 as a 501 (c) (3) organization. With a membership of more than 15,000 physicians, research scientists, and nurses and other allied healthcare professionals, their mission is to improve health worldwide by advancing research, clinical care, and public health in respiratory disease, critical illness and sleep disorders.

The Research Innovation and Translation Achievement Award recognizes outstanding contributions to the advancement of respiratory research focused on specific innovations to improve health by advancing practice, policy and health care delivery. This includes, but is not limited to drug/device discovery and development, implementation and regulatory science, as well as basic, translational, clinical, public health and health services research. The awardee's contributions demonstrate real-world innovation with tangible benefits to address unmet respiratory healthcare needs. The award also recognizes their accomplishments and role as a leader pursuing team science through collaborative approaches, both interdisciplinary and inter-institutional.

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