Research Activities

Grants and contracts totaling more than $531 million supported faculty research efforts at the School of Medicine during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015. 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 $157 million.

During the Washington University fiscal year ending June 30, 2015, the School of Medicine received $352.3 million from the National Institutes of Health. This amount includes direct-pay and pass-through awards.

The many firsts at the School of Medicine include:

  • Served as a major contributor of genome sequence data to the Human Genome Project, providing the foundation for personalized medicine.
  • 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 screening tests 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.
  • Proposed the now-common practice of taking aspirin to help prevent heart attacks.
  • 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 patient needs invasive treatment for a heart attack.
  • Decoded the entire genome of a cancer patient and used the results to alter the course of treatment, which put the cancer into remission.
  • 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 research includes:

  • Participating in the National Children’s Study, the largest U.S. study of child and human health ever conducted.
  • Seeking new ways to diagnose and treat stroke as part of 
a national network of state-of-the-art stroke treatment centers.
  • Decoding the genomes of hundreds of cancer patients and their tumors to understand the genetic roots of the disease and to find better treatments.
  • Leading an international research collaboration to study inherited forms of Alzheimer’s disease and one of the first clinical trials to evaluate whether the disease can be prevented before memory loss and dementia develop.
  • Developing and using nanoparticles for molecular imaging and targeted drug delivery for cancer and heart, lung and vascular diseases.
  • Mapping the major circuits in the human brain to understand normal brain function and connectivity errors involved in alcoholism, autism and schizophrenia.
  • Exploring the links that connect obesity and malnutrition to the community of microbes that live in the gut.
  • Searching for clues in the brain and spinal cord to help physicians diagnose Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms develop.
  • 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 blasts and athletes who have suffered repeated concussions to understand their long-term mental and physical consequences.
  • Exploring the genetic influences at play in alcohol, smoking and drug addiction.
  • 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.

BioMed 21

Launched in 2003, BioMed 21 creates a multidisciplinary and translational-research imperative for basic scientists and clinician-researchers from many medical disciplines.

BioMed 21 reorganizes the life sciences at Washington University to address the biggest questions about disease: their origins, how they affect us and how we can cure them. Its goal is to reshape the university culture to rapidly convert the knowledge of the genetic blueprint of human beings into effective, individualized treatments.

To successfully make those discoveries and develop those therapies, BioMed 21 advances on many fronts:

It aims to collect and dedicate resources, including NIH support and gifts from friends and supporters. Recent grants include:

  • $50 million grant to enhance clinical and translational research
  • $14 million in two grants for neuroscience research
  • $16 million grant for nanomedicine research

It defines new spaces to house promising research and educational programs, including:

  • 240,000 square feet of new research space in the new BJC Institute of Health at Washington University School of Medicine in the center of the medical campus
  • the Farrell Learning and Teaching Center, an important teaching component of BioMed 21
  • a 40,000-gross-square-foot facility designed to spur development of mouse models for human diseases
  • a 16,000-square-foot data center to meet the massive computing needs of The Genome Center
  • 15,000 square feet of space added to the previously established Center for Genome Sciences & Systems Biology to support new investigators

In addition to the Center for Sciences & Systems Biology, it establishes five new Interdisciplinary Research Centers (IRCs) housed in the BJC Institute of Health at Washington University School of Medicine. The IRCs are central in promoting scientific and educational innovations across school boundaries. IRCs have the primary goal of promoting innovative interdisciplinary, inter-departmental research and education in the biological and medical sciences. The mission of the IRCs is to assemble talented faculty and students to address key and emerging scientific problems, and to understand fundamental biological processes with broad implications for human health.

  • The BRIGHT Institute (Bridging Research with Imaging, Genomics and High-Throughput)
  • Center for the Investigation of Membrane Excitability Disorders — The EXCITE Center
  • Center for Women’s Infectious Disease Research (cWIDR)
    Diabetic Cardiovascular Disease Center (DCDC)
  • Hope Center Program on Protein Aggregation and Neurodegeneration (HPAN)

See to learn more.

Research training

The School of Medicine offers many degree programs focused on research training. Please visit the Programs section or the links below for more information.

Combined degrees

Doctor of Medicine/Doctor of Philosophy (MD/PhD)

Doctor of Medicine/Master of Arts (MD/MA)

Doctor of Medicine/Master of Science in Clinical Investigation (MD/MSCI)

Doctor of philosophy programs

Biomedical Sciences

Audiology and Communication Sciences

Occupational Therapy

Physical Therapy

Masters degree programs

Master of Science in Applied Health Behavior Research

Master of Population Health Sciences

Postdoctoral research training

Postdoctoral research fellowships

Medical student research opportunities

Summer Research Program

Year-long research activities