Jeffrey I. Gordon, M.D.

Jeffrey Gordon received his A.B. from Oberlin College and his M.D. from the University of Chicago. He completed his clinical training in internal medicine and gastroenterology at Washington University, and was a post-doctoral fellow in the Laboratory of Biochemistry at NIH’s National Cancer Institute. He has spent his entire academic career at Washington University, first as a member of the Departments of Medicine and Biological Chemistry, then as Head of the Department of Molecular Biology and Pharmacology, and since 2004, as founding Director of the University’s interdepartmental Edison Family Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology. He has had the privilege and pleasure of serving as the research mentor to 145 PhD and MD/PhD students and post-doctoral fellows since he established his lab.

Members of our diverse, highly interactive, collaborative, supportive, interdisciplinary lab family have developed and applied experimental and computational approaches to define mechanisms that underlie the assembly and expressed functions of human gut microbiomes plus their effects on the host. A major focus of the lab is studying the role of the gut microbiome in the pathogenesis of maternal and childhood undernutrition. This is the leading cause of death in children under 5-years-old worldwide, and a harbinger of long-lasting impairments in growth and development for those that survive.

The lab’s basic and translational studies involve: (i) comprehensive characterization of gut microbiome and host features in healthy and undernourished individuals residing in areas where the burden of undernutrition and enteropathy is great, (ii) incorporating the gut microbial communities of these populations into gnotobiotic animal models to characterize their effects on various facets of host metabolism and physiology (such as immune and CNS function) and (iii) identifying ‘targets’ in the microbiome whose therapeutic manipulation influence host signaling pathways involved in restoration of healthy growth and metabolism. Therapeutic candidates identified in these gnotobiotic models are subsequently tested in randomized controlled clinical trials involving the very population whose gut microbial communities are represented in the preclinical models. Once completed, these clinical trials are re-enacted in the gnotobiotic animal models using pre-intervention gut communities from trial participants; such ‘reverse translation’ experiments can yield important new insights about the mechanism of action of therapeutic candidates and guide development of more efficacious treatments.

This translational research pipeline has led to the discovery and development of microbiome-directed therapeutic foods (MDCFs) for treating childhood undernutrition. Initial clinical trials of these MDCFs have been and are being performed with long-standing collaborators at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b). Follow-on studies of the generalizability of their effectts will continue in additional populations living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. These and other facets of the lab’s work are providing evidence that healthy postnatal growth is causally linked to proper development of the gut microbiome in infants and children, with implications for creating new strategies for prevention of this debilitating condition.

He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine and the American Philosophical Society.

He is a Thomson Reuters Citation Laureate (Physiology or Medicine; 2015) and holds 25 US patents.

The work of the lab has been recognized by a number of awards, including the Selman A. Waksman Award in Microbiology from the National Academy of Sciences (2013), the Robert Koch Award (2013), the Dickson Prize in Medicine (2014), the Keio Medical Science Prize (2015), the Massry Prize (2017), the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize (2017), the Copley Medal from the Royal Society (2018), the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Biology and Biomedicine (2018), the Balzan Prize (2021), the David and Beatrix Hamburg Award for Advances in Biomedical Research and Clinical Medicine from the National Academy of Medicine (2022) and the Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research (2023).