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Clinical factors alone poorly explain acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) risk and ARDS outcome. In the search for individual factors that may influence ARDS risk, the past 20 years have witnessed the identification of numerous genes and genetic variants that are associated with ARDS. The field of ARDS genomics has cycled from candidate gene association studies to bias-free approaches that identify new candidates, and increasing effort is made to understand the functional consequences that may underlie significant associations. More recently, methodologies of causal inference are being applied to maximize the information gained from genetic associations. Although challenges of sample size, both recognized and unrecognized phenotypic heterogeneity, and the paucity of early ARDS lung tissue limit some applications of the rapidly evolving field of genomic investigation, ongoing genetic research offers unique contributions to elucidating ARDS pathogenesis and the paradigm of precision ARDS medicine.