Farren B. S. Briggs, Ph.D., Sc.M.

Associate Professor
Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences
School of Medicine
Cleveland Institute for Computational Biology

Dr. Briggs is an Associate Professor in the Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences, in the School of Medicine, at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU); Faculty in the Cleveland Institute for Computational Biology, and a Strategy PI for the International Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Consortium. He is an epidemiologist by training, with a master’s degree in biostatistics, and a wealth of experience investigating multiple facets of the etiology, pathology, and manifestation of various chronic diseases, with an emphasis on multiple sclerosis (MS). He works at the intersection of epidemiology, biostatistics, and genetic epidemiology, and his independent and collaborative research in MS spans the entire disease course using a diverse array of resources (including large-scale –omic data to electronic health records) and methodological approaches. 

Initially, his research focused on elucidating the genetic risk components of autoimmune diseases using parametric and non-parametric statistical methods (i.e. decision tree algorithms, and machine learning methods -- i.e. Random forests). As a National MS Society Post-Doctoral Fellow (2010-2013), his research domains expanded to environmental risks (i.e., adverse socioeconomic conditions) and characterizing gene x environment interactions (genetic modifiers of tobacco smoking risk) contributing to the liability for MS. He has since conducted expanded my primary research portfolio as to focus on improving the phenotyping of MS and other neurodegenerative/psychiatric diseases (including Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and others).

His current research domains include: 1) characterizing clinical presentation (i.e. onset symptom patterns); 2) identifying subgroups of individuals with similar symptomatology; 3) incorporating multi-omic approaches to investigate molecular signatures (biomarkers); 4) evaluating the impact multi-morbidity and modifiable exogenous factors; and 5) developing prediction models for risk stratification (i.e., nomograms and race-stratified models of longitudinal MS outcomes). 

He is also an educator and mentor and the Associated Director of the Doctoral Program in Epidemiology and Biostatistics and the course director for the primary epidemiology course that introduces the field’s fundamentals. Being a mentor is also a focal point of his CWRU experience. He has mentored a postdoctoral fellow (now Senior Epidemiologist at Syapse Inc.), was the primary mentor for a recent PhD graduate (now a CWRU post-doctoral fellow), and co-mentored three other PhD graduates (now Associate Director at Gilead Sciences, Assistant Professor at Dominican University of California, and Assistant Professor at Duke University). He has also been the primary research mentor for three medical students (all matched at top-choice residency programs at UCSD, UCSF, and University of Washington) and four master in biostatistics students (one who recently graduated with a PhD in Epidemiology from John Hopkins, another is an Epidemiology PhD student at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, another is Data Scientist at Earnin, and the most recent is currently Research Fellow at Novartis). He has also mentored several master of public health and undergraduate students who have gone on to graduate programs at Harvard University, Brown University, Vanderbilt University, Notre Dame University, and John Hopkins University.

In summary, Dr. Briggs is an epidemiologist with an emphasis in genetic and environmental epidemiology. He has experience investigating multiple facets of the etiology, pathology, and manifestation of chronic diseases by designing and using diverse study designs, resources, and methodological approaches. 



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Read about Dr. Briggs' work to identify metabolomic serum biomarkers for MS 

View Dr. Briggs' Lab page to meet his team

Read updates about his Lab's work


Teaching Information

Teaching Interests

Dr. Briggs is the course director for PQHS 490 which introduces the fundamentals of Epidemiology. The class is aimed at graduate students, medical students, and advanced undergraduates. It is very much a 0-60mph class, where at the end of the semester students should be comfortable navigating most scientific articles, and able to discuss the study’s validity, the likely role of bias, and the causal implications.

Courses Taught

EPBI 490: Epidemiology: Introduction to Theory/Methods

Research Information

Research Interests

  • Genetic and molecular predictors for Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Genetics of MS progression
  • Modeling and identifying environmental/exogenous factors influencing MS disability and progression
  • Characterizing demyelinating disease prevalence and the impact of comorbidities 


Contributions to science:

  • Genetics of risk for demyelinating diseases, applying non-parametric analytical strategies to hypothesis-driven candidate gene association studies and genome-wide association studies to marginal and epistatic genetic risk variants for MS. 
  • Genetics of MS of progression, examining the genetic component contributing to MS disability. This builds on prior work that involved the largest genome-wide association study of a measure of multiple sclerosis disability.
  • Documented influence of environmental and exogenous exposures on demyelinating diseases, examining the influence of environmental/exogenous exposures on MS susceptibility and progression in great depth, including the context of genetic heterogeneity. Discovered the first non-MHC gene-environment interaction modifying multiple sclerosis risk.
  • Characterizing demyelinating disease prevalence and overlapping comorbidities. Engaged in efforts to determine the prevalence of multiple sclerosis, as well as profiling comorbid conditions in affected persons. Similar analyses in Parkinson’s disease are ongoing.
  • Implemented the mobile stroke unit in Cleveland, OH. Served as the lead epidemiologist and biostatistician for evaluating the implementation of the first mobile stroke treatment unit in the U.S.

Professional Memberships

American Society of Human Genetics
Society for Epidemiologic Research
Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers
Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science
American Academy of Neurology
American Epilepsy Society
International Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Consortium

External Appointments

Cleveland Institute for Computational Biology


Find all of Farren Briggs' publications through PubMed here.  

Editorial roles:

Frontiers in Genetics
Associate Editor for Applied Genetic Epidemiology, 2021 - present  
International Journal of Environmental Research in Public Health
Guest Editor, Special Issue: “Genetic Epidemiology – State-of-the-Art and Future Perspectives”, 2019 – 2021
PLoS Genetics                                   
Guest Editor, 2019 and 2022    
International Journal of Environmental Research in Public Health      
Guest Editor, Special Issue: “Genetic Epidemiology”, 2014    


University of California, Berkeley
Brown University
College of the Holy Cross
Associate of Science
Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics
St. John's Junior College, Belize

Residencies, Internships and Fellowships

National Multiple Sclerosis Post-Doctoral Fellow
University of California, Berkeley

Additional Information


    Student and mentee totals, over Case Western Reserve University career:

    • Master’s taught/mentored:  100/7
    • PhD: 4
    • Post-doc: 2