February 1, 2021
Lisa LaVange, PhD, professor of biostatistics, has been appointed to the position of chair of the Department of Biostatistics at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She assumes the role after serving for several months as interim co-chair with Professor Jianwen Cai, PhD, after Michael Kosorok, PhD, W. R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of biostatistics, stepped down from the position of department chair in 2020.
“Dr. LaVange is the ideal person to be chair now,” said Barbara K. Rimer, DrPH, Alumni Distinguished Professor and dean of the Gillings School. “She is extremely well-trained, with her undergraduate degree in mathematics from UNC-Chapel Hill, her master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Massachusetts and her doctoral degree in biostatistics from the Gillings School. She is committed deeply to the department and has demonstrated that in many ways.”
LaVange brings to the chair role experience in the public and private sectors—university, non-profit consulting, pharmaceutical, contract research organization and government. She held leadership roles at RTI International, Quintiles, Inspire Pharmaceuticals and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). She was a professor of the practice and director of the Collaborative Studies Coordinating Center (CSCC) at the Gillings School from 2005 to 2011. She rejoined the Department of Biostatistics in 2018 as professor, associate chair and director of the CSCC.
LaVange’s leadership and management experience in the public and private sectors will be invaluable in positioning the department to be strong in the years ahead. She has led large employee groups, including about 100 research faculty and staff at the CSCC. She developed and taught graduate-level courses in statistical leadership and clinical trials. More recently, she taught a special topics course in regulatory science. She also oversees the Public Health Data Science concentration of the Master of Public Health (MPH) program.
LaVange is an experienced research principal investigator (PI) with a strong track record. She is Coordinating Center PI (multiple) for the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute-funded Precision Medicine Interventions in Severe and Exacerbation-Prone Asthma Network (PrecISE)l; the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development-funded Adolescent Medicine Trials Network for HIV/AIDS Interventions (ATN); and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases-funded Back Pain Consortium (BACPAC) Research Program as part of the NIH Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative. She is also PI for a research contract funded by Genentech to develop statistical methods for complex innovative trial designs (CIDs) and co-Investigator on an FDA-funded CID grant.
While at the FDA, LaVange oversaw more than 200 statisticians and other staff members involved in the development and application of statistical methodology for drug regulation across all therapeutic areas. 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 to FDA approval and patients’ benefit, with a particular focus on rare diseases. She was responsible for the CID project as part of the 21st Century Cures Act and Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA VI), both enacted by the U.S. Congress in 2016. She remains involved in international drug regulation as a consultant to the International Council on Harmonisation (ICH), serving as rapporteur for the ICH E8 (R1) guideline: General Considerations for Clinical Studies.
Of particular note, LaVange is playing a critical leadership role in U.S. efforts to speed the development of effective treatments against COVID-19 as a member of the Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) Therapeutics Clinical Committee and co-chair of the ACTIV Master Protocol Subcommittee. She is also serving as lead statistician on the ACTIV-1 clinical trial of immune modulators.
She has served on many advisory committees, data monitoring committees and study sections. She is the author or co-author of over 70 peer-reviewed publications and eight book chapters and is frequently invited to speak at national and international conferences. In her leadership role at the FDA, a key responsibility was serving as a public face for the administration, giving frequent public talks. She has been on the editorial boards of highly regarded scientific journals and received several awards. Most recently, she received the Drug Information Association’s Inspire Award for Outstanding Contribution to Health in the Americas Region, 2020. She is an elected Fellow of the American Statistical Association (ASA) and served as president of this 20,000-member association in 2018.
“Biostatistics is an outstanding department, and there is so much of which you can be proud,” said Rimer. “Over the years, the department has attracted some of the finest faculty members anywhere and remarkable students. Last year, the department was the top grant recipient within the entire university. Michael Kosorok left the department in an excellent position, and I am grateful for his leadership of more than a decade. Appointing a new chair is not about fixing problems but positioning the department for success in the decades to come. This is a challenging time, and Lisa LaVange has the vision, leadership, management skills and experience to lead the Department of Biostatistics with vision and effectiveness. She is committed to continued excellence in research, education, and practice and enhancing the department’s inclusive excellence. I am confident that Lisa will be a superb chair.”
Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at firstname.lastname@example.org.