Laura Bierut

Alumni Endowed Professor of Psychiatry

Additional Titles & Roles


  • Vice Chair for Faculty Development, Psychiatry Department
  • Leader of Precision Medicine Function, Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences

Education & Training


  • Residency: Washington University, St. Louis, MO, 1991
  • MD: Washington University, St. Louis, MO, 1987
  • BA: Harvard Radcliffe College, Cambridge, MA, 1982

Major Awards


  • Sidney I. Schwab Prize in Psychiatry,
  • Washington University Book Award,
  • International Brain Research Organization Award,
  • Langley Award for Basic Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, 2018
  • The Alton Ochsner Award Relating Smoking and Disease, 2014
  • WUSM Distinguished Educator Postdoctoral Research Mentoring Award, 2012

Areas of Clinical Interest


Smoking behavior, substance dependence, genetically informed clinical care

Research Interests


As a physician scientist, I have led 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. I am an active member in the NIDA Genetics Consortium, a national group of scientists who are leading NIDA’s efforts to understand genetic causes of substance dependence. My research group conducted the initial studies which found that the a5 nicotinic receptor subunit genes on chromosome 15 and the a6ß3 nicotinic receptor subunit genes on chromosome 8 increase a smoker’s risk for nicotine dependence. In collaboration with other groups, we have since demonstrated that the same genetic variants that contribute to smoking in the chromosome 15 region also influence the development of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. We are currently exploring how to translate genetic information to guide more effective clinical care. We have ongoing studies of genetic factors and smoking cessation treatment.
Lab website: https://healthbehaviorcenter.wustl.edu

Visit lab website

Key Publications


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Funded Research Projects


NIAAA (Co-PI):Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism
NIDA (PI): Washington University Career Development Program in Drug Abuse and Addiction
NCATS (Leader of Precision Medicine Function): Washington University Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences
NIDA (Co-investigator): Integrating Epigenomics in Human Brain and Genomics of Nicotine Dependence
NIDA (Co-investigator): Harnessing Knowledge of Gene Function in Brain Tissue for Discovering Biology Underlying Heroin Addiction
NIDA (Co-investigator): Enhancing Discovery of HIV Host Genetics Using Drug Abuse and Other Interactions
NCI (Co-investigator): Integrative Analysis of Lung Cancer Etiology and Risk