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 the Research Pathway to learn more.
Gifts and grants
The School of Medicine was awarded $569 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in federal fiscal year 2022, climbing to No. 3 among U.S. medical schools in such support. Research grants and contracts to School of Medicine faculty from all sources totaled over $762 million in our fiscal year 2021. Sources of gifts and grants include alumni and other individual donors, foundations, corporations, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and other government agencies such as the Department of Defense and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
School of Medicine research 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 innovative ways to diagnose and treat stroke as part of a national network of leading stroke treatment centers
- Making groundbreaking contributions to decode the genetics of cancer and develop personalized treatments
- Leading an international collaboration to study inherited Alzheimer’s disease and spearheading the first drug prevention trials
- Pioneering non-invasive radiation treatment for life-threatening heart arrhythmias
- 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
Ongoing basic science research includes:
- Developing new strategies to fight antibiotic resistance, including vaccines against sugerbugs 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 malnutrition and the community of microbes living in the gut
- In battling neurodegenerative diseases, identifying new therapeutic approaches that target a molecule central to the death of axons
- Studying the role of senescent cells in aging, cancer and neurodegeneration, with the goal of developing treatments
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 the U.S., Europe and Japan
- Investigated the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection to understand the role of natural infection, vaccination and booster shots in providing protection against disease
- 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
- Conducted research to document the toll of long COVID, including increased risks of memory problems; diabetes; heart, liver and kidney problems; stroke; depression and anxiety; and death
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:
- Center for Genome Sciences & Systems Biology
- Center for the Investigation of Membrane Excitability Diseases
- Center for the Study of Itch & Sensory Disorders
- Center for Women’s Infectious Disease Research
- Diabetes Disease Center
- Hope Center Program on Protein Aggregation and Neurodegeneration
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.