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Harmik Soukiasian, MD, Heather Merry, MD, Paul Noble, MD, and Robert McKenna Jr., MD

A Breath of Fresh Air: Renowned Pulmonologist Assumes Leadership of Women’s Guild Lung Institute

Women’s Guild board members welcomed Paul Noble, MD, one of the country’s leading pulmonary specialists, to the Cedars-Sinai family with a reception on October 11, 2012.

He is the new chair of the Department of Medicine and director of the Women’s Guild Lung Institute. “For the past 20 years, my research has been focused on understanding the lung’s vulnerability and how we can mitigate it,” said Dr. Noble, who holds the Vera and Paul Guerin Chair in Pulmonary Disease Research.

How the lung defends itself against environmental assault and what happens when its defense mechanisms break down, causing scar tissue, is a particular passion for Dr. Noble.

His National Institutes of Health–funded research seeks to define the mechanisms of, and novel treatments for, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis — a progressive scarring of the lung tissue for which there is no known cause and no FDA- approved medical treatment except for lung transplant.

“It’s an enormous unmet medical need,” said Dr. Noble, who comes to Cedars-Sinai from Duke University Medical Center, where he was the Charles Johnson MD Distinguished Professor and chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine. A prolific author whose research appears in top peer-reviewed publications, he has been a leading contributor to discoveries in lung disease.

He arrived at Cedars-Sinai at a propitious time, when the Women’s Guild has completed its $20 million endowment for the Women’s Guild Lung Institute — “a spectacular accomplishment,” he said. “The members’ passion is so impressive. I’m very excited to work with them.”

As head of the Department of Medicine, he is looking forward to helping to raise national awareness of Cedars-Sinai’s excellence in academic medicine.

That opportunity to make an impact on a broader scale drew Dr. Noble to Cedars-Sinai, as did its constellation of strengths in lung cancer, transplant, and stem cell science. “The question is, can we harness approaches to stem cell science to regenerate the lung as well as to identify and target destructive cells involved in fibrosis?” he asked.

He also hopes to expand research into airway disease caused by environmental exposure — “a perfect fit for Los Angeles,” he said — and into a scarring disease that occurs after transplant called bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome. Dr. Noble envisions someday being able to develop drugs effective in these conditions. In addition, he hopes to recruit specialists with expertise in treatment and research in disorders that lead to blood clots forming in the lungs, known as pulmonary emboli. This is a serious condition that can be life threatening and lead to heart failure if not diagnosed.

His goal is to build on existing strengths by recruiting other top physicians and scientists and “make Cedars-Sinai known as a center on the forefront of research in severe lung disease.”