Washington University Medical Center is among the largest academic medical centers in the nation, renowned for basic science and clinical research in every area of medicine. Visit the School’s medical news website to learn more.

Although medical students are not required to conduct research, those who are interested will find rich and abundant opportunities for doing so. Visit Student Research Opportunities to learn more.

Gifts and grants

Grants and contracts totaling $686.4 million supported faculty research efforts at the School of Medicine during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019. Substantial additional support was provided directly to faculty investigators by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Gifts and grants from private sources, including alumni, individuals, foundations, corporations and other organizations totaled $247 million.  The School of Medicine received $485.7 million from the National Institutes of Health in the 2019 fiscal year.


Medical firsts from Washington University

  • Developed the first safe way to monitor production and clearance of the substance that forms brain plaques in Alzheimer’s disease patients.
  • Served as a major contributor to the Human Genome Project, providing the foundation for personalized medicine.
  • Generated cells that, when injected into the spinal cords of rats, reinsulate nerve axons and improve mobility.
  • Developed a genetic test that detects whether an individual will develop a form of thyroid cancer and would benefit from thyroid removal — the first surgical prevention of cancer based on genetic test results.
  • Developed a rating scale used worldwide to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Created the first positron emission tomography (PET) scanner, a device that images the brain at work.
  • Helped pioneer the use of insulin to treat diabetes.
  • Helped develop a blood test for early diagnosis of prostate cancer.
  • Proposed the now-common practice of taking aspirin to help prevent heart attacks.
  • Performed the first non-surgical procedure in the United States that restricts the size of the stomach to treat obesity.
  • Assembled a novel online atlas of the folds of the human cerebral cortex and the role they play in brain function.
  • Developed a cure for hepatitis B in cases diagnosed early.
  • Created a surgical cure for atrial fibrillation.
  • Performed the world’s first nerve transplant using nerve tissue from a cadaver donor.
  • Developed a blood test that quickly and safely identifies whether a heart attack patient will require invasive treatment.
  • Performed innovative larynx restoration surgery for the first time in the United States.
  • Helped pioneer cochlear implant technology.
  • Performed the world’s first double-lung transplant.
  • Pioneered the use of surgery and medication to lower eye pressure in glaucoma patients to prevent further vision loss.
  • Grew embryonic animal tissue transplants into fully functional kidneys in an animal host.
  • Published the first evidence linking smoking and lung cancer.

Ongoing research

  • Leading an international effort to map major brain circuits to understand normal function and the roots of brain disease.
  • Pioneering minimally invasive surgical treatments for heart arrhythmias and heart valve replacement.
  • Leading a regional consortium in translating basic science discoveries into treatments for patients more quickly.
  • Participating in the National Children’s Study, the largest U.S. study of child and human health ever conducted.
  • Making groundbreaking contributions to decoding the genetics of cancer and developing personalized treatments.
  • Leading efforts to identify the role of infectious agents on many conditions prevalent in women.
  • Addressing how the metabolic changes of diabetes lead to heart disease.
  • Developing new ways to diagnose and treat stroke as part of a national network of state-of-the-art stroke treatment centers.
  • Studying the link between protein misfolding and neurodegenerative disorders.
  • Identifying markers in the brain and spinal cord to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and running the first drug prevention trial.
  • Developing and using nanoparticles for molecular imaging and targeted drug delivery for cancer and heart, lung and vascular diseases.
  • Imaging language areas in adult and pediatric brains during recovery from stroke to observe natural rehabilitation patterns.
  • Studying the genetics of smoking and alcohol addiction.
  • Developing and using new imaging tools to study how nervous system cells form connections.
  • Determining the mechanism by which antidepressant medications work in the brain.
  • Exploring potential links between the tendency to be thin or overweight and the composition of microbes in the gut.
  • Identifying anatomical and genetic markers of schizophrenia.
  • Developing treatments to compensate for individual genetic traits that interfere with drug performance.

Learn more about Washington University School of Medicine research.

Translational research: BioMed 21

BioMed 21 is a major university-wide initiative to spur multidisciplinary translational research. Its ultimate mission is to foster translation of fundamental laboratory discoveries into clinical solutions to advance human health.

BioMed 21 includes the creation of several Interdisciplinary Research Centers (IRCs), each focused on a specific disease area or set of biomedical issues:

Three units — The Elizabeth H. and James S. McDonnell III Genome Institute, the Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences and the Center for Clinical Imaging Research — support the IRCs.