Tom Brett, PhD

Assistant Professor of Medicine


  • Assistant Professor of Medicine
  • Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics
  • Assistant Professor of Cell Biology and Physiology

Research Interests

Chronic obstructive lung diseases such as asthma, COPD, and cystic fibrosis afflict millions worldwide. The development of effective treatments requires detailed knowledge of the molecular mechanisms that produce disease pathology at atomic level detail. Our research interests are focused on three main areas of acute and chronic lung disease pathogenesis: 1) molecular mechanisms of ion channel activation and mucus overproduction; 2) host/respiratory virus interactions and the anti-viral response; and 3) innate immune signaling in chronic obstructive lung diseases. To approach these questions, we have taken a multidisciplinary approach using the tools of structural biology (X-ray crystallography), protein biochemistry, biophysical methods, computational biology, cell biology, and molecular immunology to study in detail the proteins involved in producing these disease states. The synthesis of information gained from these methodologies facilitates the design of therapeutic biologics (proteins, peptides, and antibodies) or small molecule drugs via high throughput screening, virtual screening (computational docking), and structure-based drug design. We collaborate closely with cell biologists, geneticists, medicinal chemists, and clinicians within the Pulmonary Division to pursue these goals from bench to bedside.

Education and Training

  • 1993-1999 PhD (Chemistry), University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • 1999-2006 Postdoctoral Fellow (Immunology), Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO
  • 2007 Research Instructor (Immunology), Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO
  • 2007–present Assistant Professor of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO
  • 2007–present Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO
  • 2007–present Assistant Professor, Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO

Honors and Awards

  • 1993 Parker Graduate Fellowship, Department of Chemistry, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, NE
  • 1997 Pauling Prize for Outstanding Student Poster, American Crystallographic Assn.
  • 1999-2002 NIH Training Grant, Postdoc, Immunology and Immunogenetics
  • 2007-present Ad hoc reviewer, Biochemistry, Alzheimer’s and Dementia, Journal of Biological Chemistry, EMBO Journal, Traffic, American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology, American Journal of Physiology- Cell Physiology, Cell Physiology and Biochemistry, PNAS, FEBS Letters
  • 2007-2010 Scientist Development Grant Award, American Heart Association, National Center
  • 2011 PSI Foundation (Canada), Asthma and Allergy, Ad Hoc grant reviewer
  • 2012-present Member, Center for Investigation of Membrane Excitability Diseases, Washington University
  • 2013-present Member, American Heart Association, Proteins & Crystallography Study Section
  • 2014 Asthma UK, Ad Hoc grant reviewer
  • 2014-present Editorial Board, Journal of Allergy and Asthma, Herbert Open Access Journals
  • 2015 Outstanding Poster Award, Gordon Research Conference on Cilia, Mucus, and Mucociliary Interactions
  • 2015 Member, Respiratory Sciences Study Section Panel, NIH

University Committees and Courses

  • 2010-present, Co-organizer, Biochemistry and Biophysics Program Annual Retreat, Washington University
  • 2011-present Member, Biochemistry and Biophysics Program Steering Committee, Washington University
  • 2012-present Lecturer, Bio5456: Structural Biophysics
  • 2013-present Co-coursemaster, Bio 5328: Structural Biology Journal Club
  • 2014-present Lecturer, Diseases of Membrane Transport and Excitability
  • 2014-present Lecturer, M17-553: Bench Fundamentals of Translational Research


View Tom Brett’s research publications on PubMed