Featured Researchers

Scott Weiss, MD

Scott Weiss, MD

Please describe the research questions of your lab.

 I initially trained as a respiratory epidemiologist and clinical pulmonologist. I founded the Pulmonary Division at Beth Israel Hospital, Boston in 1978. In 1986, I decided to focus primarily on research and returned to the Channing Laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston. My long-standing research interests have been in environmental and genetic risk factors for the development of asthma and (COPD).  My initial work concerned the role of environmental tobacco smoke exposure in the development of asthma. I then studied the effect of airway responsiveness in populations on the development of COPD and the effect of asthma and allergies in children and young adults on the natural history of COPD. In 1994, I developed a strong interest in the genetics/genomics of asthma. By 2000, when the human genome was mapped, I was fully funded to do research on the genetics of airways disease. At that time, we identified the vitamin D receptor as a gene for asthma and have recently completed a clinical trial giving vitamin D to pregnant women to prevent asthma and allergies in their offspring. This trial has provided one of the first translational treatments for a complex trait based on genetics. This work has fueled a broader interest in how micronutrients modify maternal epigenetics, fetal gene expression, and influence subsequent disease risk in both the mother and the fetus which has fueled an interest in preeclampsia, preterm birth and autism.  Finally, I have also been interested in asthma pharmacogenomics. My broader interest in these research endeavors is using genomic markers to better predict drug treatment response and disease treatments and outcomes. I have been continuously funded by the NIH for 43 years. I have authored or co-authored over 800 papers and co-written and co-edited four books, including a comprehensive textbook of Respiratory Genetics. I have been a recipient of an NHLBI MERIT award. My career H index is 151. I was identified as being in the top 0.004% of biomedical researchers in the world in terms of impact during the period of 1996-2011 (Eur J Clin Invest. 2013 Dec; 43(12): 1339-65 PMID:24134636).

What genetics/genomics techniques do you utilize in your lab?

Whole genome sequencing, Whole Genome RNA sequencing, miRNA sequencing, methylation gene chip analysis, single cell RNAseq, mouse models of asthma and COPD.

Describe a key technique/assay/instrument utilized in your lab, and what novel insights does it bring to your research question?

I would say genome sequencing (DNA and RNA) as it has led to most of the discoveries we have made in the lab

At what point in your life did you decide you wanted to be a scientist/physician?

I decided to be a physician at the age of 5 and an academic physician during my internship.

In your opinion, what is one of the most important discoveries in the field of respiratory illness/disease/function that was dependent on genomics or similar techniques?

Identification of the 17q12-21 locus as a genetic cause of asthma by Moffit and Cookson in 2007.

Briefly describe your favorite publication involving genomics/omics that you were involved with in general-audience terms.

Wolsk HM, Chawes BL, Litonjua AA, Hollis BW, Waage J, Stokholm J, Bønnelykke K, Bisgaard H, Weiss ST. Prenatal vitamin D supplementation reduces risk of asthma/recurrent wheeze in early childhood: A combined analysis of two randomized controlled trials. PLoS One. 2017 Oct 27;12(10). PMID: 29077711

This paper provides definitive results from a meta-analysis of two clinical trials that vitamin D, administered to pregnant women early in pregnancy, at a dose of 4000 IU will reduce asthma incidence in the offspring children at age 3 years by 50%.

What is your favorite aspect of ATS?

Although I have served in leadership positions in ATS, one favorite aspect of ATS was founding the Genetics and Genomics Section. I hope we attain assembly status this year.

How could your research assist scientists and clinicians in other assemblies at ATS?

I believe that genetics and genomics is now central to all that we do in ATS and influences just about every assembly.

Would you be open to collaborations with GG and/or non-GG scientists and clinicians? Do you have any potential lab openings currently or in the near future?

We have the only training program in System Genetics and Genomics of Lung Diseases (T-32 HL-07427). We are always looking for qualified post-docs interested in an academic career.


Please include your email address or lab website to share with potential collaborators!
Personal email:  scott.weiss@channing.harvard.edu,
Lab website: https://www.brighamandwomens.org/research/departments/channing-division-of-network-medicine/overview