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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.

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

Ongoing clinical research includes:

  • Participating in a national network to determine new ways to prevent preterm birth
  • Developing new ways to diagnose and treat stroke as part of a national network of leading stroke treatment centers
  • Making groundbreaking contributions to decoding the genetics of cancer and developing personalized treatments
  • Leading an international collaboration to study inherited forms of Alzheimer’s disease and spearheading the first drug prevention trial
  • Pioneering minimally invasive surgical treatments for heart arrhythmias and heart valve replacement
  • Participating in the National Children’s Study, the largest U.S. study of child and human health ever conducted
  • Leading research, teaching and community engagement to improve population health through Washington University’s Institute for Public Health
  • Investigating changes to the brain in soldiers exposed to roadside bomb blasts and athletes who have suffered repeated concussions to understand their long-term mental and physical consequences
  • Leading research to improve care for heart failure and cardiovascular disease, including clinical trials to evaluate mechanical assist devices and studies to look at the link between diabetes and aggressive heart disease

Ongoing basic science research includes:

  • Developing new strategies to fight antibiotic resistance, including vaccines against superbugs
  • Leading an international effort to map major brain circuits to understand how the mind works and the roots of brain disease
  • Pioneering studies on the links between obesity and malnutrition with the community of microbes that live in the gut
  • Identifying biomarkers in the brain and spinal cord to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms develop
  • Spearheading research to understand and prevent the devastating consequences of Zika virus infection
  • Developing and using nanoparticles for molecular imaging and targeted drug delivery for cancer and heart, lung and vascular diseases
  • Exploring the genetic influences at play in alcohol, smoking and drug addiction
  • Studying role of senescent cells in aging, cancer and neurodegeneration, with goal of developing treatments

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 »