Former BU innovator of the year– Professor and Chief of Computational Biomedicine in the Department of Medicine, Dr. Avi Spira, M.D, Ph.D., has come up with a new biomarker signature to improve the treatment of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which affects 14.8 million individuals in the United States, and is predicted to become the third leading cause of death by 2030. Given the complexity of this disease, there are no disease modifying agents available. According to Dr. Spira, this is largely due to the fact that “very little is known about the molecular mechanisms underlying COPD pathogenesis and progression”. Dr. Spira and his team including Associate Professor Marc Lenburg, Ph.D. and Assistant Professor Katrina Steiling Ph.D. used whole-genome expression profiling on bronchial brushings from smokers with and without COPD is used to identify the gene signature that associated with COPD. 98 genes were identified whose expression levels were associated with COPD disease state and were reversible with effective treatment.
“We think our 98 air way gene signature can serve as a biomarker that reflects the presence of COPD and severity of lung function impairment,” says Dr. Lenburg.
According to the team, this technology could also be used to shorten the clinical development timeline by serving as biomarker of patient response to COPD therapy. As an Attending in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Boston Medical Center, Dr. Spira notes that another impediment to developing effective therapies is that currently clinicians use lung function test to determine if patients are responding to therapy, which requires at and at least six months after medication to evaluate the effect.
“Preliminary results suggest that our airway gene signature may work as an intermediate biomarker of response to COPD therapy, and could significantly reduce the time needed to observe and evaluate the effectiveness of COPD medications” says Dr. Steiling.
While the lab continues to advance this and other programs, BU OTD is currently seeking a commercial partner to develop the COPD biomarker signature.
Dr. Spira is also the founder and scientific advisor to AllegroDx Inc., a molecular diagnostics company focused on the development and commercialization of innovative genomic tests to support the diagnosis and management of lung cancer.
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