January 14, 2018
Lisa LaVange, PhD, current president of the American Statistical Association, has been named professor and associate chair of the Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Department of Biostatistics and director of the department’s Collaborative Studies Coordinating Center (CSCC). The appointment was effective Jan. 1.
In her role as associate chair, LaVange also will coordinate development of the data science curriculum at the Gillings School.
From 2011 to 2017, LaVange was director of the Office of Biostatistics in the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER).
There, she oversaw more than 200 statisticians and other staff members involved in the development and application of statistical methodology for drug regulation. She was a leader in developing and assessing the effectiveness and appropriateness of innovative statistical methods intended to accelerate the process from drug discovery to clinical trials conducted in patients to FDA approval and patients’ benefit.
LaVange said she is particularly proud of CDER’s work to advance therapies for rare diseases and drug-resistant bacterial infections, advocate for innovation in precision medicine, and help solve the opioid addiction problem in the U.S. through evaluating formulations of opioids that are abuse-deterrent and monitoring drug abuse rates to determine the effectiveness of marketing such formulations.
“Our leadership in developing and evaluating methodologies and data sources for post-market surveillance has been instrumental in FDA’s continuing efforts to combat this immense public health problem,” she wrote in a January message to the American Statistical Society.
LaVange particularly relishes the opportunities to innovate in the areas of data science and leadership.
“My tenure at FDA has given me new insights into the importance of statisticians’ being able to navigate data sources of all types, sizes and levels of complexity to search for signals and solve complex problems,” she wrote in the same message. “Our leadership in this area – our ability as data scientists to quantify uncertainty and make meaningful interpretations of the results – has never been needed more.”
LaVange was previously at the UNC Gillings School from 2005 to 2011 as biostatistics Professor of the Practice and CSCC director.
While at the CSCC, she was principal investigator for several large-scale multi-center clinical trials, epidemiology studies and patient registries, including the ongoing National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute-funded Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos, the largest study of Hispanics and Latinos/Latinas living in the United States, and the Subpopulations and Intermediate Markers in COPD Study (SPIROMICS).
She was also co-director of the biostatistics and bioinformatics cores of UNC’s Clinical and Translational Sciences Award (CTSA) at the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences (NC TraCS) Institute.
“I am very excited to return to the Gillings School at UNC and look forward to directing the CSCC in its next chapter, as well as assuming a new role in the Department of Biostatistics,” LaVange said. “It is a wonderful opportunity to join one of the oldest and most well-respected biostatistics departments in the country.”
Prior to working in a university setting, LaVange spent a decade in the pharmaceutical industry and 16 years in nonprofit research endeavors. Her experience spanning the private, academic and government sectors has provided her with a unique view of the importance of statistics in all aspects of public health and the need to improve the training of statisticians to meet the public health challenges in today’s world of big data.
“We are very happy Dr. LaVange is returning to UNC,” said Michael R. Kosorok, PhD, W.R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor and chair of biostatistics at the Gillings School. “Her tremendous experience and accomplishments in academia, government and the pharmaceutical industry in biostatistical and data science practice will strengthen the research, practice and teaching missions of the UNC biostatistics department and strengthen significantly the data science activities within the department, School and University.”
LaVange, who earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics at UNC, a Master of Arts in mathematics at University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a doctorate in biostatistics at UNC-Chapel Hill, is widely respected in the field. She has numerous publications in the areas of clinical trials and regulatory science, and has traveled extensively around the world in the past six years, speaking on behalf of the FDA about statistical science and policies for drug development and review.
She was elected fellow of the ASA in 2004, served as president of the Eastern North American Region (ENAR) of the International Biometric Society (IBS) in 2007, and was an IBS executive board member from 2013 to 2014.
She was formerly co-editor of the Journal of Pharmaceutical Statistics and editor-in-chief of the ASA-SIAM book series.
In July 2018, she will preside, as ASA president, over the annual joint statistical meetings (JSM) in Vancouver, B.C., where more than 7,000 statisticians are expected to congregate for learning and networking.
Barbara K. Rimer, DrPH, dean of the Gillings School, said she is delighted that LaVange will return to UNC.
“Dr. LaVange is one of the most respected biostatisticians anywhere, and she is known as a problem solver, doer and collaborator,” Rimer said. “Her experience in multiple sectors gives her an edge that few others have. She will help us develop new multisectoral partnerships and expose our students to opportunities to lead exciting biostatistics research and practice in a variety of organizations. We also are looking forward to her experience and global leadership in the emerging field of data science.”
Read LaVange’s January message to the American Statistical Association (ASA) in the ASA’s membership magazine, AmStat News.