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J&J, BU Partner on Multi-Year Lung Cancer Detection Initiative

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Johnson & Johnson announced today that it has partnered with Boston University as part of a five-year initiative to expedite the firm's vision of "creating a world without lung cancer."

As part of the collaboration, Johnson & Johnson will establish a lung cancer center at BU that will allow members of the firm's Lung Cancer Initiative and BU researchers to work together to find solutions to prevent, intercept, and cure lung cancer. BU professor of medicine, pathology, and bioinformatics Avrum Spira has joined Johnson & Johnson Innovation as the global head of the firm's Lung Cancer Initiative, and will direct the new center.

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

"We need better and more rapid alignment of discovery with clinical application and development experience to bring forward important new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches," Spira said in a statement. "The alliance with Boston University and other collaborations around the world will help identify novel technologies and approaches that support this new vision."

The alliance between J&J and BU will build upon collaborative programs linked to three lung cancer research studies, the firm said. Two studies — which include cohorts of military personnel — aim to develop, integrate, and validate molecular and imaging-based biomarkers to improve lung cancer detection. In the third study, known as the pre-cancer genome atlas, investigators will define causes of pre-malignant disease progression to develop molecularly-targeted interception strategies.

In addition, J&J's Innovation program will select and advance certain pilot programs developed by teams at BU.

At a press conference in Boston today, which was webcast, Spira said the team is particularly excited to develop a nasal epithelial test because it is a "field of injury" concept. Since epithelial cells are the first cells that encounter toxins in tobacco through smoking, they are also the first cells to exhibit cellular damage, he noted.

Spira added that the tests are currently early in development. "We are hopeful, over the next two to three years, further development of the [nasal epithelial] test will ultimately [lead to] a product in the clinic," he said.