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Lexington man killed in crash recalled as kind spirit

Joe Lavins.
Joe Lavins.Handout

At the Cambridge biotechnology company where he worked for the past decade, Bernard “Joe” Lavins was fondly known as the data guy, an internist-turned-researcher who lit up at the chance to share his insights with his colleagues.

“Joe was such a data hound,” Mark Currie, chief scientific officer at Ironwood Pharmaceuticals Inc., said Thursday. “He loved to dig into data.”

Lavins, 60, was killed Wednesday morning in a collision with a tractor trailer as he bicycled to work through Porter Square in Cambridge. His death was met with an outpouring of grief among his colleagues and in Lexington, where Lavins lived with his wife and teenage daughter, according to a friend and colleagues.

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The fatal collision is under investigation, the Middlesex District Attorney’s office said. The driver, who stayed at the scene of the crash, has not been charged.

Lavins drew great joy from cycling, and often rode to and from work, Currie said.

“When you talked to Joe about cycling, he always had a smile on his face,” he said.

He also excelled at it, said Ellen Murphy, whose granddaughters attend high school with Lavins’s daughter.

“I was in awe of him on his bike,” said Murphy, 69. “He was serious about it.”

When Murphy used the mobile application MapMyRun to find a course in Lexington, Lavins was often leading the pack.

“It would come up with who had the best time,” she said. “And it was always Joe Lavins.”

She once told Lavins about his records, and he had no idea he was atop the leaderboard.

Murphy recalled asking Lavins to sponsor her in a half-marathon she is running Sunday to raise money for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Lavins wrote a check for $100, the largest donation Murphy received.

“There was something heartwarming and special about him,” she said.

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At Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, Lavins was “a very thoughtful and trusted colleague,” said Rachel Cunningham, a former executive assistant at the company.

“He is a very dear person,” said Cunningham, who now works at Boston Children’s Hospital. “He was a quiet and unassuming person, and just a really kind man. That’s why this is really more tragic.”

Lavins joined Ironwood Pharmaceuticals in 2006 and worked on the development of Linzess, a drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2012 to treat irritable bowel syndrome with constipation, Currie said.

“Joe was really critical in helping us understand the effect of the drug on patient symptoms like pain and bloating,” he said. “He worked really hard to understand how important these symptoms were for the patient.”

A woman who answered the phone at Lavins’s home Thursday declined to comment.

Before moving to Massachusetts, Lavins worked as a physician and later moved into the pharmaceutical industry, his employer said.

According to information provided by Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, Lavins received his undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame and his medical degree from Georgetown University.

His career took him across the country, as he treated patients at military hospitals in Georgia and Oklahoma, attained the rank of major in the US Army, and worked as an allergist in private practice in Illinois, the company said.

During his time at the Reynolds Army Community Hospital in Fort Sill, Okla., Lavins was awarded a medal of commendation for his medical work, the company said.

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Murphy said she plans to wear a black heart on her shirt to honor Lavins when she runs the half-marathon this weekend.

“It just shouldn’t happen to somebody so nice,” she said. “I miss him.”


Steve Annear of the Globe staff contributed. Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.