Transformative Basic Science Research – Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

Aimed at uncovering the biological, genetic and molecular mechanisms of living systems, basic scientific research is both the foundation and the fuel for advances in health and medicine.

At the University of Washington School of Medicine, the BJC Investigator Program brings together a cohort of some of the most innovative and accomplished basic life scientists in their fields. Launched in 2017, the program will eventually bring 10 renowned researchers to the St. Louis School of Medicine and life sciences ecosystem. The BJC Investigator program is a joint effort between BJC HealthCare and the University of Washington.

Embedded in the University of Washington’s rich network of mentors and collaborators, this cohort of scholars enhances the school’s ever-growing ability to advance medical care today and prepare the leaders of tomorrow.

Meet the Investigators

Each BJC researcher brings a wealth of talent, creativity and expertise that has led to fundamental discoveries in biology. They have pioneered innovative approaches to key biological dilemmas, and their work is expected to accelerate progress toward finding treatments and cures for diseases ranging from psychiatric disorders to viral infections to birth defects.

Adam Kepecs, PhD

Robert J. Terry Professor of Neuroscience
Professor of Psychiatry

As part of his research in the neurobiology of behavior, Adam Kepecs, PhD, helped describe the neural circuits that underlie decision-making. His lab focuses on understanding the computational processes of cognition and applying this knowledge to the treatment of mental illness. He was a Kavli Frontiers of Science Fellow, John Merck Fellow, Klingenstein Fellow, Alfred P. Sloan Scholar, and a recipient of the McKnight Foundation Memory and Cognitive Disorders Award.

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Jonathan Kipnis, PhD

Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Emeritus Professor of Pathology and Immunology

Jonathan Kipnis, Ph.D., is well known for his research into the influence of the immune system on neurological function, including his startling discovery of the lymphatics, the immune system’s drainage ducts, around the mammalian brain. He has received the Israeli Knesset’s Award of Excellence, the Jordi Folch-Pi Award from the American Society for Neurochemistry, and the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award.

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Carolina Lopez, PhD

Professor of Molecular Microbiology

Carolina López, PhD, studies the interactions between viruses and the hosts they infect. His lab has provided fundamental insights into the ability of non-standard viral genomes – versions of a virus’s genome that are not the full copy – to affect the course of infection. She is a member of the NIH-funded PROMISED (Professional Mentoring Skills Enhancing Diversity) program, a recipient of a Faculty Mentoring Award from the University of Pennsylvania, where she was Associate Professor of Pathobiology, and a US Fulbright Scholar.

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Helen McNeill, PhD

Larry J. Shapiro and Carol-Ann Uetake-Shapiro Professor of Developmental Biology

Helen McNeill, PhD, joined Washington University School of Medicine in 2018 as the first BJC Investigator. His research focuses on the processes that govern early embryonic development, in particular the molecules called giant cadherins that bind cells together during tissue growth. This work has implicated giant cadherins in many conditions, including spina bifida and congenital kidney disease. His achievements have been recognized with the Petro-Canada Young Innovator Award, the Lloyd SD Fogler, QC Award of Excellence and a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair.

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Dave Pagliarini, PhD

Hugo F. and Ina C. Urbauer Professor of Cell Biology and Physiology

Dave Pagliarini, Ph.D., studies mitochondria – the energy-producing organelles in cells – and has made major advances in identifying their components and their roles in health and disease. His work has earned him the Glenn Award for Research in Biological Mechanisms of Aging, the Searle Scholar Award, the Protein Science Young Investigator Award from the Protein Society, the Earl and Theresa Stadtman Young Scholar Award from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. and the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from the National Science Foundation.

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Kodi S. Ravichandran, PhD

Director of the Immunobiology Division, Department of Pathology and Immunology
Robert L. Kroc Professor of Pathology and Immunology

A world leader in understanding innate immunity, Kodi S. Ravichandran, PhD, and his team have identified the key mechanisms by which dead cells are cleared from the body in a process called efferocytosis. Failures of this process are linked to a host of autoinflammatory diseases. Ravichandran has received numerous accolades and awards, including the State of Virginia’s Outstanding Scientist of the Year and the University of Virginia’s Distinguished Scientist Award, among others. He has dedicated himself to teaching and mentoring dozens of postdoctoral fellows and graduate students, many of whom have succeeded in academia and industry.

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More stories from the BJC Investigator Program »

Selection committee and advisory board

A search committee of approximately 50 researchers from the University of Washington School of Medicine selects BJC researchers based on their track record of groundbreaking science, transformative thinking, and building research hubs that catalyze new works.

A seven-member external advisory board also assists in recruiting BJC investigators. Representing top research institutions across the country, members of the advisory board include members of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine, researchers from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Members of the BJC External Investigators Advisory Committee:

Helen M. Blau, PhD
Stanford University

Brian J. Druker, MD
Oregon Health and Science University Knight Cancer Institute

Brian Kobilka, MD
Stanford University School of Medicine

Ruth Lehmann, PhD
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Dan R. Littman, MD, Ph.D.
New York University School of Medicine

Joshua R. Sanes, PhD
Harvard University

Joan A. Steitz, PhD
Yale University

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