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Dr. Brent Richards

Brent Richards MD, MSc

Clinical Epidemiology

Endocrinology, Genetic determinants, Mendelian randomization, Polygenic risk scores
  • Senior Investigator, Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research
  • Professor of Medicine, Departments of Medicine (Endocrinology), Human Genetics, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McGill University
  • William Dawson Scholar / FRQS Clinical Research Scholar, McGill University
  • Senior Lecturer, King’s College London (Honorary)

Contact details


Assistant contact details

  • Darin Adra,
    Clinical Research Coordinator
    (514) 340-8222 ext. 23867


Dr. Brent Richards is a professor of medicine and CEO of 5 Prime Sciences. He has trained in genetics, medicine, endocrinology, epidemiology and biostatistics. He currently practices endocrinology and runs a research program at McGill University.

His research program is focused on the identification of the genetic determinants of common diseases and the translation of these findings to improved clinical care.

Dr. Richards was a CIHR Clinical Investigator and currently is an FRSQ Clinician Scientist Merite. He has had the opportunity to participate in, and sometimes lead, large-scale human genetic studies published in Nature, JAMA Nature Genetics and The Lancet. His work has been recognized through election as a Member of the Royal Society of Canada, College of New Scholars, the American Society of Clinical Investigation, and a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Foundation Grant.

Major Research Activities

The Richards Lab vision is to use human genetics to improve clinical care. We do so by first undertaking genetic association studies. Then we use this information for three purposes:

  • To identify and validate drug targets with our industrial partners.
  • To identify individuals at risk of disease using polygenic risk scores, developed from machine-learning methods.
  • To test the causal role of risk factors in disease through Mendelian randomization.

We have helped to build Canada’s largest COVID-19 biobank (BQC19), which contains genetic, proteomic, lifestyle and COVID-19 outcomes on hospitalized COVID-19 positive patients and their controls.


Also, we have established the BioPortal a unique research platform built in partnership with the CERC Chair in Genomic Medicine at McGill, which will now focus on improving care for diabetes and will then rapidly expand to other common and rare diseases. With artificial intelligence, our researchers will analyze the information that will be collected from 2,500 diabetic patients per year to better understand the individual’s genetic risk for disease and its complications, clarify their diagnoses and find better medicines for their clinical conditions.

Recent Publications and References

  • A Neanderthal OAS1 Isoform Protects European Ancestry Individuals Against COVID-19 Susceptibility and Severity.

    Zhou S, Butler-Laporte G, Nakanishi T, Morrison DR, Afilalo J, Afilalo M, Laurent L, Pietzner M, Kerrison N, Zhao K, Brunet-Ratnasingham E, Henry D, Kimchi N, Afrasiabi Z, Rezk N, Bouab M, Petitjean L, Guzman C, Xue X, Tselios C, Vulesevic B, Adeleye O, Abdullah T, Almamlouk N, Chen Y, Chasse M, Dur M, Paterson C, Normark J, Frithiof R, Lipcsey M, Hultstrom M, Greenwood CMT, Zeberg H, Langenberg C, Thysell E, Pollak M, Mooser V, Forgetta V, Kaufmann DE, Richards JB. (2021) Nature Medicine [IF: 36.13]. doi: 10.1038/s41591-021-01281-1. This paper received lay press coverage from The Economist, CTV News, Reuters and Le Devoir.

  • Genomic atlas of the plasma metabolome prioritizes metabolites implicated in human diseases.

    Y Chen, T Lu, U Pettersson-Kymmer, ID Stewart, G Butler-Laporte, T Nakanishi, A Cerani, KYH Liang, S Yoshiji, JDS Willett, CY Su, P Raina, CMT Greenwood, Y Farjoun, V Forgetta, C Langenberg, S Zhou, C Ohlsson, JB Richards. 2023 Nature Genetics [IF: 41.4] Jan;55(1):44-53. doi: 10.1038/s41588-022-01270-1. In the largest GWAS of metabolites to date, we described causal effects for several metabolites on common diseases, such as osteoporosis.

  • Converging evidence from exome sequencing and common variants implicates target genes for osteoporosis.

    Zhou S, Sosina OA, Bovijn J, Laurent L, Sharma V, Akbari P, Forgetta V, Jiang L, Kosmicki JA, Banerjee N, Morris JA, Oerton E, Jones M, LeBlanc MG; Regeneron Genetics Center; Idone V, Overton JD, Reid JG, Cantor M, Abecasis GR, Goltzman D, Greenwood CMT, Langenberg C, Baras A, Economides AN, Ferreira MAR, Hatsell S, Ohlsson C, Richards JB, Lotta LA. (2023). Nature Genetics [IF: 41.376]. 55 (8): 1277-1287; 2023. doi: 10.1038/s41588-023-01444-5. Epub 2023 Aug 9. This paper was the first to describe how exome sequencing and genome-wide genotyping results can be combined to identify causal genes.

  • Whole-genome sequencing identifies EN1 as a determinant of bone density and fracture.

    HF Zheng*, V Forgetta*, YH Hsu*, K Estrada*, A Rosello-Diez*, PJ Leo*, CL Dahia*, KH Park-Min*, JH Tobias*, C Kooperberg*, A Kleinman, U Styrkarsdottir, CT Liu, C Uggla, DS Evans, CM Nielson, K Walter, U Pettersson-Kymmer, S McCarthy, J Eriksson, T Kwan, M Jhamai, K Trajanoska, Y Memari, J Min, J Huang, P Danecek, B Wilmot, R Li, WC Chou, LE Mokry, 113 co-authors (all listed below), RD Jackson†, DW Rowe†, CA Loomis†, DM Evans†, CL Ackert-Bicknell†, AL Joyner†, EL Duncan†, DP Kiel†, F Rivadeneira†, JB Richards† for the GEFOS and UK10K Consortia. Nature [IF: 42]. 2015 Sep 14. doi: 10.1038/nature14878. This article received press coverage from The Guardian and was amongst the top 10% of Nature articles receiving coverage in traditional and social media.

  • Vitamin D and risk of Multiple Sclerosis: a Mendelian Randomization Study.

    LE Mokry, S Ross, OS Ahmad, V Forgetta, G Davey-Smith, A Leong, CMT Greenwood, G Thanassoulis, JB Richards. PLOS Medicine [IF: 14.4] 2015. DOI:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001866. This study received lay press coverage from ABC, CTV, CBC and Global News, the Guardian, the Telegraph, Yahoo and other news sources. This paper was highlighted in a review of multiple sclerosis causes in Nature. Importantly for knowledge translation, this study received news pieces from the CMAJ and MedScape, which are targeted to the general medical community and Neurology Today, which is targeted to neurologists. This paper was also selected as a Human Genetics Editor Pick from PLOS One. This paper led, in part, to new clinical guidelines from the MS Society of Canada, endorsed by the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centres and the Canadian Network of Multiple Sclerosis Clinics to ensure that people at risk of MS ensure that they are vitamin D sufficient. This paper was among the top 10% most cited PLOS Medicine papers published in 2015.