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Tradition of Innovation

Our longstanding commitment to clinical care combined with research has contributed significantly to scientific and therapeutic advancements.

Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD, explores the “vast, mysterious world” of the gut microbiome to develop innovative therapies for treating childhood malnutrition and restoring kids’ healthy growth. In recognition of his groundbreaking research, Gordon received the 2022 Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research from Johnson & Johnson. Video credit: Johnson & Johnson

Explore some of the School of Medicine’s innovations and ongoing research highlights below.

Ongoing clinical research includes:

  • Participating in a national network to determine new ways to prevent preterm birth.
  • Developing innovative ways to diagnose and treat stroke as part of a national network of leading stroke treatment centers.
  • Decoding the genetics of cancer and developing novel diagnostic genetic tests and personalized treatments.
  • Leading an international collaboration to study inherited forms of Alzheimer’s disease, spearheading the first drug prevention trials.
  • Pioneering noninvasive radiation treatment for life-threatening heart arrhythmias and minimally invasive surgical treatments for heart valve replacement.
  • Investigating the roots of health disparities in Alzheimer’s, cancer, maternal health, cardiovascular disease and other areas.
  • Improving pediatric heart health through participation in a national collaborative network of leading hospitals and research institutions.
  • Developing cell-based immunotherapies and cancer vaccines to attach various types of cancer.
  • Documenting the toll of long COVID, including increased risks of heart, liver and kidney problems and death.

Ongoing basic science research includes:

  • Developing new strategies to fight antibiotic resistance, including vaccines against superbugs and alternatives to antibiotics.
  • Leading an international effort to map major brain circuits to understand how the mind works and the roots of brain disease.
  • Pioneering studies probing the links between obesity and childhood malnutrition and the community of microbes living in the gut.
  • In battling neurodegenerative disease, identifying new therapeutic approaches to prevent nerve cell death.
  • Developing new ways to image inflammation, which plays a role in many diseases and autoimmune conditions.
  • Investigating the role the gut microbiome plays in normal brain development, mental health and neurodegenerative conditions.
  • Exploring the potential of neuroactive steroids as treatments for psychiatric conditions.
  • Identifying the body’s central regulators of aging and identifying therapeutic strategies to boost cellular energy and delay aging.

Advances in COVID-19 research include:

  • Developed an intranasal vaccine for COVID-19 that has been approved for use in India and licensed to a U.S. company that is aiming for commercialization in th U.S., Europe and Japan.
  • Investigated the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection to understand the role of a natural infection, vaccination and booster shots in providing protection agains disease.
  • Developed a saliva-based test that is faster and easier to tolerate than the nasopharyngeal swab test.
  • Created a mouse model of SARS-CoV-2 infection, to help test potential drugs and vaccines.
  • Participated in national and international vaccine and drug clinical trials.
  • Played a leading role in the NIH-sponsored ACTIV-1 trial, evaluating whether anti-inflammatory drugs can shorten hospital stays.
  • Led research indicating that a low-cost antidepressant can prevent severe complications of COVID-19.

School of Medicine research firsts include:

  • Served as a major contributor of genome sequence data to the Human Genome Project, providing the foundation for personalized medicine.
  • Developed screening tests used worldwide to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Created the first positron emission tomography (PET) scanner, used to image the brain and other organs at work.
  • Helped pioneer the use of insulin to treat diabetes.
  • Developed the first surgical prevention of cancer based on genetic testing – in work on medullary thyroid cancer.
  • Published the first evidence linking smoking and lung cancer.
  • Performed the world’s first nerve transplant using nerve tissue from a cadaver donor.
  • Proposed the now-common practice of taking aspirin to help prevent heart attacks.
  • Developed a blood test that quickly and safely identifies whether a patient needs invasive treatment for a heart attack.
  • Demonstrated that severely malnourished children given antibiotics along with a therapeutic peanut-butter based food are far more likely to recover and survive than children who only receive the therapeutic food.

Nobel awards

The Nobel prizes in chemistry and in physiology or medicine recognize some of the modern world’s most beneficial contributions to science and medicine. We are proud to recognize the broad scope and benefit of this foundational work undertaken at Washington University.

Nobel laureates affiliated with Washington University School of Medicine »

BJC Investigator Program

Launched in 2017, the BJC Investigator Program will bring 10 renowned basic science investigators to Washington University School of Medicine. These investigators bring novel insights to major biological questions, and their ideas have the potential to lead to new ways of understanding health and disease.

Meet the BJC Investigators »