Sleckman named director of Division of Laboratory and Genomic Medicine

Barry P. Sleckman, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pathology and immunology, has been named director of the Division of Laboratory and Genomic Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The appointment was announced by Skip Virgin, M.D., Ph.D., Edward Mallinckrodt Professor and head of Pathology and Immunology.

“Dr. Sleckman is an outstanding fundamental scientist interested in a range of basic processes that determine how lymphocytes in the immune system develop and function,” Virgin says. “His clinical training and commitment to training of students and residents stands out as true strengths that will influence his division for years to come.”

The Division of Laboratory and Genomic Medicine supports the work of many clinical departments by providing diagnostic testing services that help confirm the causes of patient illnesses. According to Sleckman, the division is already very strong in development and application of traditional laboratory tests from areas such as microbiology, chemistry and hematology. He plans to further expand the division’s capabilities and research in bioinformatics and molecular and genomic testing techniques.

“The idea is that everybody’s different, and people respond differently to treatments,” Sleckman says. “Differences in our individual genetic makeup are likely contributing to these altered responses, so we’re coming to a point where we’re going to need to be able to sequence a portion of a person’s genome for the cost of an MRI or a CT scan.”

What physicians learn from that sequence will help them recommend a treatment approach that will likely be most beneficial for their patient.

“The division currently has a good molecular diagnostics program, but given the rate at which this technology is moving, we can’t afford to stand still,” he says. “We really have to keep our ears to the ground continuously for changes and be on the cutting edge of those developments.”

Sleckman’s personal research focuses on DNA repair and the development of the early immune system. To develop properly, immune system cells have to rearrange some of their DNA. If these carefully regulated processes go awry, immune deficiency or cancer can result.

Sleckman, who was born in Bermuda, earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at Lafayette College in 1983 and earned a medical degree and a doctorate from Harvard University in 1989. He served fellowships at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Center for Blood Research, all in Boston. He was an instructor in medicine at Harvard prior to coming to Washington University as an assistant professor of pathology and immunology in 1998. Sleckman became associate professor of pathology and immunology in 2003, and he has been the medical director of the Clinical Immunology Laboratory at the School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital since 2005.

Sleckman has received several teaching awards, including the Distinguished Service Teaching Award (2001, 2007), Professor of the Year (2003-2006) and Elective Course of the Year (2006).

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked third in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.