Obituary: Justin B. Serugo, research technician, 44

Justin B. Serugo, a senior research technician in the Department of Pathology & Immunology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, died Feb. 6, 2024, in St. Louis following a battle with liver cancer. He was 44.


Serugo was a research technician in the laboratory of Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD, the Dr. Robert J. Glaser Distinguished University Professor and director of the Edison Family Center for Genome Sciences & Systems Biology.

For a decade, Serugo contributed to research identifying the gut microbiome’s causal role in childhood malnutrition. That research — which relies on mouse studies Serugo helped conduct — resulted in the development of a therapeutic food that nurtures healthy gut microbes and supports the healthy growth and development of malnourished children. The new therapeutic food is being investigated in a clinical trial aiming to enroll 6,500 malnourished children in East and West Africa and Southeast Asia.

Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Serugo fled the country when members of his tribe, the Banyamulenge, came under attack amid armed conflict between the government and rebel forces. Leaving behind his college studies, Serugo then spent several years in Nairobi, Kenya, where he took English and computer classes.

In 2008, through a group that works with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Serugo was able to settle in St. Louis. He found work in housekeeping at a hotel and a casino and worked toward making it possible for members of his family to immigrate to the U.S. from refugee camps in Uganda. He joined Washington University in 2011 and the Gordon lab in 2014. And in 2023, his six siblings and their families arrived in St. Louis.

Serugo was a dedicated member of his church, New City Fellowship-South City, as well as an entrepreneur, starting a commercial and residential cleaning business to provide jobs to refugees new to St. Louis.

“Justin’s life was filled with dreams and triumphs,” Gordon said. “For those of us lucky enough to have known him, we can honor Justin by embracing his devotion to others, his kindness and modesty, and his sheer joy and appreciation of the beauty and mystery of life.”

He is survived by his wife, Alice Serugo; their children, Samuela and Raphael; his parents, Nabaruta Namajana and Biganiro Gahaya; and his six siblings and their families.

A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 2, at The Journey Tower Grove, 2833 S. Kingshighway Blvd., St. Louis. Interment will follow. A reception will be held at South City Community School, 4926 Reber Place, St. Louis.

Memorial contributions may be made to support Serugo’s family.

Originally published on the School of Medicine website