Laura J. Bierut, M.D. - Director

As a physician scientist, I lead several studies funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study environmental and genetic contributions to smoking behaviors, addiction and other psychiatric and medical illnesses. Recently my work has moved into the translation of scientific discoveries into clinical care. I am an active member in the National Institute on Drug Abuse Genetics Consortium, a national group of scientists who are leading efforts to understand the underlying genetic causes of substance use disorder.  I was appointed to the National Advisory Council for the National Institute on Drug Abuse by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Xavier Becerra.  I was also recently appointed to the National Advisory Council for the National Human Genome Research Institute to advise the NIH on genomics research. 

I am a member of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee, which advises the FDA on the scientific basis of regulating tobacco products, and I am Co-Chair of the Smoking Cessation Panel for the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. In recognition of my research accomplishments, I was awarded the 2014 Alton Ochsner Award Relating Smoking and Disease and the 2018 Langley Award for Basic Research on Nicotine and Tobacco.

 Phone: 314-362-3492


My specific research areas include:
  1. Understanding how genetic and environmental factors contribute to smoking, alcohol, and other substance use disorders.
  2. Implementation science for cost-effective, point-of-care treatment for substance use disorders.
  3. Examining genetic findings in diverse populations given that most large-scale genetic studies are conducted with participants of European ancestry.
    4. Translating genetic findings to clinically relevant diseases such as lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and outcomes such as smoking cessation.
Recent findings:

People who suffer from alcohol use disorder frequently utilize health care and are screened about their alcohol use by a health professional. However, very few receive treatment. Primary health care settings represent a prime opportunity to implement treatment for alcohol use disorder, but this opportunity is being missed.

Mintz, C, Hartz S, Fisher S, Ramsey A, Geng E, Grucza R, Bierut L. A cascade of care for alcohol use disorder: using 2015-2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health data to identify gaps in past 12-month care. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, 2021, 45(6):1276-1286.

We used individual genetic information to design a tool to provide personalized risk information to current smokers recruited from the community. The tool was found to be highly acceptable and associated with a reduction in smoking. These findings may pave the way for effectiveness and implementation research on genetically-informed behavior change interventions to enhance cancer prevention efforts.

Ramsey AT, Bourdon JL, Bray M, Dorsey A, Zalik M, Pietka A, Salyer P, Chen LS, Baker TB, Munafò MR, Bierut LJ. Proof of Concept of a Personalized Genetic Risk Tool to Promote Smoking Cessation: High Acceptability and Reduced Cigarette Smoking. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2021, 14(2):253-262.

We tested a mobile app that connects validated health information about opioid use disorder (OUD) recovery options and medication assisted treatment (MAT) benefits to adults with OUD who were not already receiving MAT. Results showed improvements in attitudes about MAT and increased interest in treatment among a small number of individuals who were socially networking about their opioid misuse. These findings highlight the potential of leveraging social media to connect hard-to-reach individuals with OUD to a digital therapeutic tool that improves MAT attitudes and nudges them toward OUD recovery.

Cavazos-Rehg PA, Krauss MJ, Costello SJ, Ramsey AT, Petkas D, Gunderson S, Bierut LJ, Marsch LA. Delivering information about medication assisted treatment to individuals who misuse opioids through a mobile app: a pilot study. J Public Health (Oxf). 2020, 42(1):149-154.


Our active projects include:

Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA)
This is a multi-site collaborative study whose overarching goals are to understand the contributions and interactions of genetic, neurobiological, and socio-environmental factors on risk and resilience over the developmental course of alcohol use disorder, including relapse and recovery..

Multi ‘Omics Integration and Neurobiological Signatures of Alcohol Use Disorder
This study will identify genes that are dysregulated in the brain by alcohol use disorder (AUD) and map underlying genetic variants to better understand gene regulatory changes due to AUD risk and changes due to alcohol exposure. Results of this study may identify important neurobiological pathways for AUD and ultimately reduce the burden of alcohol-related health outcomes and fatalities.

Precision Medicine Function of the Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences
The goals of the Precision Medicine Function are to make genomic resources more accessible and useful to a wide variety of researchers, facilitate formation of multidisciplinary teams who will use genomics in both bench-to-bedside and bedside-to-bench research, and educate the translational research workforce, health care providers, patients, and the public about the use of genomics in clinical and translational research.

Washington University Career Development Program in Drug Abuse and Addiction
This is a career development program to train clinician scientists conducting research on drug abuse and addiction. The program supports two scholar faculty positions at Washington University School of Medicine.


U10 AA008401
Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism
My Role: Principal Investigator of the St. Louis Site

R01 AA027049
Multi ‘Omics Integration and Neurobiological Signatures of Alcohol Use Disorder
My Role: Multiple Principal Investigator

K12 DA041449
WU Career Development Program in Drug Abuse and Addiction
My Role: Principal Investigator

UL1 TR002345
WU Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences
My Role: Lead of Precision Medicine Function

R01 DA042090
Integrating Epigenomics in Human Brain and Genomics of Nicotine Dependence
My Role: Co-investigator

R56 AG058726
Identifying Gene-by-Environment Interplay in Health Behavior
My Role: Co-investigator

R01 DA044014
Harnessing Knowledge of Gene Function in Brain Tissue for Discovering Biology Underlying Heroin Addiction
My Role: Co-investigator

U19 CA203654
Integrative Analysis of Lung Cancer Etiology and Risk
My Role: Co-investigator