Kevin J. Tracey

Kevin J. Tracey, MD, who is a neurosurgeon by training, is Director and Chief Executive Officer of The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, in Manhasset, NY. He is also Professor and President of the North Shore-LIJ Graduate School of Molecular Medicine, an independently chartered PhD granting institution. Dr. Tracey received his medical degree from Boston University in 1983 and completed his clinical training in neurosurgery at The New York Hospital in 1992. Dr. Tracey has published more than 225 research papers in the fields of immunology and neuroscience. The Institute for Scientific Information named him as “Highly Cited Researcher in Immunology,” placing him in the top 0.5% of all publishing scientists.

Dr. Tracey’s honors include election to the American Society of Clinical Investigation in 2001, and recipient of lectureships from The Karolinska Institute, Harvard University, Washington University, University of Texas Southwestern, the University of Pittsburgh, and others. Dr. Tracey is Editor in Chief of Molecular Medicine, and Advisory Editor of The Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Dr. Tracey is a leader in immunology and neuroscience. While others studied how the immune system affects the nervous system, Dr. Tracey and his colleagues reasoned that nerves provide information that directly controls the development of an immune response. This work revealed that the vagus nerve, which has been termed the most important nerve in the body because it controls heart rate, digestion, and other essential functions, regulates how the immune system responds to threat. The vagus nerve turns off the production of molecules (“cytokines”) in the immune system which cause “cytokine storm,” the process that causes tissue damage in diseases as varied as infection, arthritis, diabetes, atherosclerosis, and other inflammatory diseases. This new understanding of how the brain can influence health and disease, termed the “inflammatory reflex,” offers new insight into mind and health.

These highly cited observations have significantly expanded knowledge of neurological function and immunology, opened new avenues for scientific study being pursued by many others, and led to new experimental strategies for treatment of diseases.

His critically acclaimed book, Fatal Sequence: The Killer Within, published by the Dana Press in 2005, recounts the hospital course of young patient that changed his life, and a series of remarkable events that shaped his research.