Advancing the Research Agenda

Published on 20 June 2018

On Feb. 1, Tom Burris, Ph.D., FAAAS, FAHA, joined St. Louis College of Pharmacy as the Alumni Endowed Professor in the Center for Clinical Pharmacology and President’s Senior Research Advisor. Like previous center appointments, Burris will also have an adjunct appointment at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. With an impressive career in academia and industry, Burris brings the center one step closer to becoming a national research leader in pain management and personalized approaches to medication therapy.

After earning a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry at Southern Illinois University and a Doctor of Philosophy in Molecular Biophysics at Florida State University, Burris completed his first postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Cell Biology at Baylor College of Medicine in 1993. In 1994, he completed a second postdoctoral fellowship with the Molecular Biology Institute at UCLA School of Medicine.

Burris’ research is focused on using chemical biology approaches to examine the physiological roles of nuclear hormone receptors and developing drugs targeting them for the treatment of diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

In 2010, Burris’ work was recognized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which elected him as a fellow. Burris was also named a fellow of the American Heart Association in 2011. Over the years, Burris’ research has been widely published and recognized by numerous professional organizations and granting agencies.

A 2016 report by Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research ranked Burris among principal investigators receiving funding from the National Institutes of Health. He ranked No. 45 among 869 principal investigators in the area of pharmacology and No. 22 among 746 principle investigators in the area of physiology.

“The appointment of Dr. Burris and his team in the Center for Clinical Pharmacology is a key step toward achieving our vision to be a globally prominent leader in collaborative research,” said John A. Pieper, Pharm.D., FAPhA, FCCP, president of the College. “His dynamic career will be a huge asset to the College’s research and interprofessional initiatives.”

Burris’ successful career includes numerous leadership roles in industry and academia. He served as senior scientist in the drug discovery division at the R.W. Johnson Pharmaceutical Research Institute and Johnson & Johnson Research and Development. He then served as the head of nuclear receptor biology research and senior research advisor for Lilly Research Laboratories.

His background also includes time spent as a professor at Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center, and at the Scripps Research Institute, where he served as a professor in both the Department of Molecular Therapeutics and the Department of Metabolism and Aging, as well as director of the Center for Diabetes and Metabolic Disease.

Currently, he is a member of the Siteman NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center Solid Therapeutics Program at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and is a founder of Pelagos Pharmaceuticals Inc., where he is also a member of the Pelagos Board of Directors and Scientific Advisory Board.

The appointment of Burris in the center is a pivotal moment in the College’s efforts to advance and promote a research agenda that establishes the College as a leader in pharmacy and health care education.

This story was first published in the spring 2018 issue of Script. Visit to read more and access previous issues.

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