Kevin J. Tracey, MD

President and CEO, The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research

Professor & Director, The Center for Biomedical Science, The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research

Professor, Molecular Medicine & Neurosurgery, Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell

Phone: (516) 562-2813

About the Investigator

Kevin J. Tracey is president of The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, and professor of Molecular Medicine and Neurosurgery at the Zucker School of Medicine. He is a leader in the study of the molecular basis of inflammation. He and his colleagues identified the neural mechanism for controlling the immunological responses to infection and injury, and developed devices to replace anti-inflammatory drugs in clinical trials of rheumatoid arthritis, a new field termed bioelectronic medicine. The recipient of numerous awards and honors, including an honorary degree from the Karolinska Institute, Dr. Tracey is a fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a member in the American Society for Clinical Investigation, and the Association of American Physicians. He is co-founder and Councilor of the Global Sepsis Alliance.

Professor Tracey graduated summa cum laude from Boston College, majoring in chemistry, and received his MD from Boston University. He trained in neurosurgery at the New York Hospital/Cornell University Medical Center, and was guest investigator at The Rockefeller University. Since 1992 he has directed the Laboratory of Biomedical Science in Manhasset, NY, where in 2005 he was appointed president of the Feinstein Institute. Dr. Tracey delivers lectures nationally and internationally on inflammation, sepsis, the neuroscience of immunity, and bioelectronic medicine. He is the author of Fatal Sequence (Dana Press) and more than 320 scientific papers.

Research Focus

The major focus of Dr. Tracey’s laboratory is the molecular basis of inflammation and identifying the mechanism by which neurons control the immune system.

Dr. Tracey participated in the discovery of the direct inflammatory activity of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF) and the therapeutic role of monoclonal anti-TNF. He and his colleagues discovered the role of HMGB1 in inflammation, and identified the molecular mechanisms for signal transduction by signaling through pattern recognition receptors. This provided the first direct evidence to unify mechanisms of inflammation produced by molecules derived from the pathogen and host.

His laboratory discovered the molecular mechanism for the neural control of inflammation, now termed the inflammatory reflex. They delineated the neurophysiological mechanism as dependent upon action potentials transmitted in the vagus nerve, which regulate a T cell subset in spleen that produce acetylcholine. This lymphocyte derived neurotransmitter interacts with alpha-7 nicotinic receptors expressed in macrophages. Signal transduction via this receptor-ligand interaction inhibits cytokine release by suppressing inflammasome activation.

These discoveries enabled Dr. Tracey and his colleagues to develop devices to replace anti-inflammatory drugs. This new field, termed bioelectronic medicine, utilizes electrons delivered to neurons to modulate pathogenic targets in disease. The lead program utilizes devices to stimulate the inflammatory reflex which inhibits TNF in healthy subjects and in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. His lab participated in reporting the first successful clinical trial demonstrating that vagus nerve stimulation can be effective in methotrexate-resistant rheumatoid arthritis patients.

Lab Members

Sangeeta S Chavan, PhD
Associate Investigator / Lab Manager
Research: Dr. Chavan studies molecular and physiological basis of how neural circuits regulate immune responses. She is also interested in studies of HMGB1 biology and its therapeutic potential in the treatment of inflammatory diseases.

Huan Yang, PhD
Associate Investigator
Research: Dr. Yang is interested in studying role of HMGB1 in sepsis pathogenesis.

Valentin Pavlov, PhD
Associate Investigator
Research: Dr. Pavlov studies cholinergic mechanisms of regulation of innate immunity and inflammation and their therapeutic implications in inflammatory and metabolic disorders.

Peder Olofsson
Institute Scientist
Research: Dr Olofsson studies how nerve reflexes regulate the body’s defense to microorganisms and injury.

Tea Tsaava, MD
Research Scientist
Research: Dr Tsaava is interested in analyzing interaction between nervous system and immune system.

Jian Hua Li, MS

Senior Research Assistant
Research: Mr. Li is involved in purification of recombinant proteins and various polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies.

Meghan E. Dancho, BS
Research Assistant
Research: Ms Dancho is involved in studies of neural cholinergic mechanisms that control inflammation.

La Queta Hudson, MS
Hofstra PhD Student
Research: Ms Hudson studies the role of Pigment Epithelium Derived Factor in metabolic diseases.

William Hanes, JD
Research Scholar/Graduate Student
Research: Mr Hanes is interested in the interaction between the immune and nervous systems, in particular antibody response modulation and Type I Diabetes.

Harold Silverman, MS

Hofstra PhD Student
Research: Mr. Silverman studies changes in neural mechanisms in response to inflammation.

Emily Battinelli, BS 

Hofstra MD/PhD Student
Research: Ms Battinelli is studying effects of metabolic and inflammatory mediators on the nervous system.


Boston College
Degree: BS
Field of Study: Chemistry

Boston University
Degree: MD
Field of Study: Medicine

Cornell University Medical College
Degree: Residency
Field of Study: Neurosurgery


2008 Dean of Research, Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, Hempstead, NY
2006 President, The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Manhasset, NY
2006 Professor and President, The Elmezzi Graduate School of Molecular Medicine, Manhasset, NY
2000-2005 Program Director, Northwell Health General Clinical Research Center, Manhasset, NY
1992 Director, Laboratory of Biomedical Science, The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research,
Manhasset, NY

Honors and Awards

2014 Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
2014 Member, Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society
2014 34th Annual Vincent du Vigneaud Research Lectureship, Weill Cornell Graduate School of
Medical Science, New York, NY
2013 Grenvik Lectureship, University of Pittsburgh, PA
2010 Köhler Award, German Society of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, Berlin, Germany
2009 Doctorate honoris causa, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
2009 Member, Association of American Physicians
2009 Nancy Bucher Lecture, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA
2008 William A. Altemeier Lecture, Surgical Infection Society, South Carolina
2007 The DeWitt Stetten, Jr., NIH Director’s Lecture, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD
2007 Simson Lecture, Ohio State University Medical Center, Columbus, Ohio
2006 Co-Chair, First Annual EMBO Workshop on HMGB1, Milan, Italy
2005 First Annual Dr. Vincent Parsonnet Lectureship in Surgery, Beth Israel Medical Center, Newark, NJ
2005 Highly Cited Researcher (Immunology)
2005 George H. Clowes, Jr. Lecture, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center,
Harvard Medical School, Boston
2005 Mathilda and Terence Kennedy Lecture, Imperial College, London, UK
2004 Program Chair, Shock Society 27th Annual Meeting, Halifax, Nova Scotia
2004 Richard L. Simmons Lecture, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
2004 Co-Chair, “The Inflammatory Reflex,” A Nobel Conference of the Karolinska Institute,
Stockholm, Sweden
2003 Joel J. Roslyn Lecture, Society of University Surgeons, New Orleans, Lousiana
2003 Gregory Mark Taubin Lecture, Children’s National Medical Center, Washington, DC
2003 Co-Chair, The First HMGB-1 Cytokine World Congress, Stockholm, Sweden
2003 Annual Clinical Science Lecture, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
2001 Member, American Society for Clinical Investigation
1998 Member, Surgical Biology Club, American College of Surgeons
1995 Member, Society of University Surgeons
1993 Faculty Fellowship of the American College of Surgeons
1991 Sir David Cuthbertson Lecture, European Society of Parenteral & Enteral Nutrition,
Brussels, Belgium
1983 Sidney Cooperband Award, Boston University School of Medicine
1983 Mitsubashi Research Award, Boston University School of Medicine
1979 Phi Beta Kappa
1979 Sigma Xi
1979 Alpha Sigma Nu, Boston College
1979 Order of the Cross and Crown, Boston College
1979 Scholar of the College, Boston College

  1. Rosas-Ballina M, Olofsson PS, Ochani M, Valdés-Ferrer SI, Levine YA, ReardonC , Tusche MW, Pavlov VA, Andersson U, Chavan S, Mak TW, Tracey KJ. “Acetylcholine-synthesizing T cells relay neural signals in a vagus nerve circuit.” Science. 2011 Oct 7;334(6052):98-101. doi: 10.1126/science.1209985. Epub 2011 Sep 15. PubMed PMID: 21921156.
  2. Wang H, Bloom O, Zhang M, Vishnubhakat JM, Ombrellino M, Che J, Frazier A, Yang H, Ivanova S, Borovikova L, Manogue KR, Faist E, Abraham E, Andersson J, Andersson U, Molina PE, Abumrad NN, Sama A, Tracey KJ. “HMG-1 as a late mediator of endotoxin lethality in mice. Science.” 1999 Jul 9;285(5425):248-51. PubMed PMID: 10398600.
  3. Tracey KJ, Beutler B, Lowry SF, Merryweather J, Wolpe S, Milsark IW, Hariri RJ, Fahey TJ 3rd, Zentella A, Albert JD, et al. “Shock and tissue injury induced by recombinant human cachectin.” Science. 1986 Oct 24;234(4775):470-4. PubMed PMID: 3764421.
  4. Lu B, Nakamura T, Inouye K, Li J, Tang Y, Lundbäck P, Valdes-Ferrer SI, Olofsson PS, Kalb T, Roth J, Zou Y, Erlandsson-Harris H, Yang H, Ting JP, Wang H, Andersson U, Antoine DJ, Chavan SS, Hotamisligil GS, Tracey KJ. “Novel role of PKR in inflammasome activation and HMGB1 release.” Nature. 2012 Aug 30;488(7413):670-4. doi: 10.1038/nature11290. PubMed PMID: 22801494.
  5. Wang H, Yu M, Ochani M, Amella CA, Tanovic M, Susarla S, Li JH, Wang H, Yang H, Ulloa L, Al-Abed Y, Czura CJ, Tracey KJ. “Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor alpha7 subunit is an essential regulator of inflammation. Nature.” 2003 Jan 23;421(6921):384-8. Epub 2002 Dec 22. PubMed PMID: 12508119.
  6. Tracey KJ. “The inflammatory reflex. Nature.” 2002 Dec 19-26;420(6917):853-9. Review. PubMed PMID: 12490958.
  7. Borovikova LV, Ivanova S, Zhang M, Yang H, Botchkina GI, Watkins LR, Wang H, Abumrad N, Eaton JW, Tracey KJ. “Vagus nerve stimulation attenuates the systemic inflammatory response to endotoxin.” Nature. 2000 May 25;405(6785):458-62. PubMed PMID: 10839541.
  8. Tracey KJ, Fong Y, Hesse DG, Manogue KR, Lee AT, Kuo GC, Lowry SF, Cerami A. “Anti-cachectin/TNF monoclonal antibodies prevent septic shock during lethal bacteraemia.” Nature. 1987 Dec 17-23;330(6149):662-4. PubMed PMID: 3317066.

View more at PubMed

Dr. Kevin J. Tracey talks about bioelectronic medicine at TEDMED.

Click here to watch the video.