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 $748.9 million supported faculty research efforts at the School of Medicine during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020. Substantial additional support was provided directly to faculty investigators by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Gifts and grants from thousands of private sources, including alumni, individuals, foundations, corporations and other organizations totaled $218 million.  The School of Medicine received $487.8 million from the National Institutes of Health in the 2020 fiscal year.


Medical firsts from Washington University 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 non-invasive radiation treatment for life-threatening heart arrhythmias

Ongoing basic science research includes:

  • Developing new strategies to fight antibiotic resistance, including vaccines against sugerbugs
  • 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 malnutrition and the community of microbes living in the gut
  • Identifying biomarkers in the brain and spinal cord to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms develop

Advances in COVID-19 research include:

  • 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
  • Created a vaccine that could be delivered through the nose; the technology has been licensed for further development
  • 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

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.