Kevin J. Tracey

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Kevin J. Tracey
Kevin J. Tracey Headshot.jpg
Tracey in 2019
Born (1957-12-10) 10 December 1957 (age 62)
Alma materBoston University
Known forBioelectronic Medicine
Scientific career
FieldsNeurosurgery, immunology
InstitutionsFeinstein Institute for Medical Research

Kevin J. Tracey, a neurosurgeon and inventor, is the president and CEO of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, professor of neurosurgery and molecular medicine at Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, and president of the Elmezzi Graduate School of Molecular Medicine[1] in Manhasset, New York. The Public Library of Science Magazine, PLOS Biology, recognized Tracey in 2019 as one of the most cited researchers in the world.[2]

Early life[edit]

Tracey was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana on 10 December 1957. He received his B.S. in chemistry from Boston College in 1979 and his M.D. from Boston University in 1983. From 1983 to 1992 he trained in neurosurgery at the New York Hospital/Cornell University[3] with Russel Patterson. During this time he was also a guest investigator at Rockefeller University.[citation needed]

Academic appointments[edit]

In 1992, Tracey moved to Northwell Health,[4] in Manhasset, New York, where he practiced neurosurgery and established the Laboratory of Biomedical Science (now the Center for Biomedical Science). In 2005 he was appointed president and CEO of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, and professor at and president of the Elmezzi Graduate School of Molecular Medicine (Manhasset, New York).[1]


Tracey studies inflammation; he turned to immunological research and inflammation after training as a neurosurgeon, due to his puzzlement over what happened to a young woman in his care who died of sepsis.[5] Training as both a neurosurgeon and immunologist merged in discovery of the mechanism by which neurons control the immune system.[6]

In the early 1980s, Tracey and colleagues described the inflammatory activity of TNF-α and other cytokines, which ultimately led to the discovery and development of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs for arthritis.[5] A subsequently expanding field of research confirmed that TNF is a mediator of septic shock, but not sepsis. This prompted Tracey to search for another mediator of sepsis, culminating in 1999 by identification of HMGB1, a protein previously known as a DNA-binding transcription factor, as a mediator and drug target in sepsis.[7] Tracey and his team developed a chemical called CNI-1493.[5] He discovered that CNI-1493 tells brain cells to activate a particular nerve, the vagus nerve.[5] Once activated, the nerve turns down TNF production.[5]

Further research led Tracey to study the role of the vagus nerve in controlling the immune system.[8] His work led him to hypothesize that stimulating the vagus nerve with electricity would alleviate inflammation.[9] In 2007 he co-founded a company called SetPoint Medical which aimed to develop vagus nerve stimulation devices to treat autoimmune diseases.[8][10][9] The company started clinical trials in 2011, and results published in 2016.[8] Additionally in 2011, Tracey and colleagues discovered a memory T cell subset that secretes acetylcholine in the spleen when activated by signals arising in the vagus nerve.[11]

In May 2018, Tracey was part of a team that was first to decode specific signals that the nervous system uses to communicate immune status and alert the brain to inflammation. Identifying these neural signals and what they're communicating about the body's health provides insight into diagnostic and therapeutic targets, and device development.[12]

In February 2019, Tracey along with a team led by Tak Mak, PhD and Maureen Cox, PhD, reported that T cell–derived acetylcholine (ACh) play an important role in regulating immunity.[13]

Awards and honors[edit]

Book and editorial activities[edit]

  • Tracey, K. J. (2005). Fatal Sequence: The Killer Within. New York: Dana Press. ISBN 978-1932594065.
  • Editor-in-chief, Bioelectronic Medicine[23]
  • Advisory Editor, Journal of Experimental Medicine[24]
  • Contributing Editor, Molecular Medicine[25]


  1. ^ a b "Elmezzi Graduate School".
  2. ^ "Supplementary data tables for "A standardized citation metrics author database annotated for scientific field" (PLoS Biology 2019)". Mendeley. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  3. ^ "Cornell Neurological Surgery Alumni". 23 January 2013.
  4. ^ "The Generator by Emily Anthes".
  5. ^ a b c d e Carlson, Emily (September 2010). "Up Close With: Kevin Tracey" (PDF). Findings. Office of Communications and Public Liaison National Institute of General Medical Sciences. pp. 9–16.
  6. ^ Tracey, K. J. (2009). "Reflex control of immunity". Nature Reviews. Immunology. 9 (6): 418–428. doi:10.1038/nri2566. PMC 4535331. PMID 19461672.
  7. ^ Andersson, Ulf; Tracey, Kevin J. (2012). "Reflex Principles of Immunological Homeostasis". Annual Review of Immunology. 30: 313–335. doi:10.1146/annurev-immunol-020711-075015. PMC 4533843. PMID 22224768.
  8. ^ a b c Fox, D (3 May 2017). "The shock tactics set to shake up immunology". Nature. 545 (7652): 20–22. Bibcode:2017Natur.545...20F. doi:10.1038/545020a. PMID 28470211. open access
  9. ^ a b Behar, Michael (23 May 2014). "Can the Nervous System Be Hacked?". The New York Times.
  10. ^ Garde, Damien (2013). "SetPoint Medical – 2013 Fierce 15". FierceBiotech.
  11. ^ Rosas-Ballina, M., et al. "Acetylcholine-Synthesizing T Cells Relay Neural Signals in a Vagus Nerve Circuit". Science, vol. 334, no. 6052, 2011, pp. 98–101., doi:10.1126/science.1209985.
  12. ^ Holme, Frida (May 2018). "Scientists Wants to Decode Body-Brain Nerve Signals to Diagnose Illness". Frontline Genomics.
  13. ^ Zeller, Gregory (February 2019). "Tracey, Global Team Unearth New Bioelectronic Clue". InnovateLI.
  14. ^ "The Harvey Society: Lecture Series". The Harvey Society. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  15. ^ "Grenvik lectureship".
  16. ^ "The Association of American Physicians". The Association of American Physicians. Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  17. ^ "The Nancy L. R. Bucher Seminar Series". Boston University School of Medicine. Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  18. ^ Maria Sjögren. "Honorary doctors at Karolinska Institutet 2009 – Prizes and Awards – Karolinska Institutet". Retrieved 7 February 2013.
  19. ^ "ISI Highly Cited Researchers".
  20. ^ "2007 Stetten Lecture – Physiology and Immunology of the Cholinergic Anti-inflammatory Pathway". NIH National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  21. ^ "Member Directory". The American Society of Clinical Investigation. Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  22. ^ "Supplementary data tables for "A standardized citation metrics author database annotated for scientific field" (PLoS Biology 2019)". Mendeley. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  23. ^ "Bioelectronic Medicine". Springer Nature. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  24. ^ "Journal of Experimental Medicine". Rockefeller University Press. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  25. ^ "Molecular Medicine Editorial Board". Springer Nature. Retrieved 6 February 2019.

External links[edit]