Senior Investigator

Clinical Director

Portrait of Robert Colbert.

Robert A. Colbert, M.D., Ph.D.

In addition to overseeing his laboratory research program studying the etiology and pathogenesis of early onset arthritis, Dr. Colbert directs the NIAMS clinical research program, which includes disease-focused clinical units, the rheumatology and dermatology clinical training programs, and community outreach efforts.

The Clinical Research Programs at NIAMS conducts patient-based investigation in the areas of rheumatic, skin, muscular and inflammatory diseases, and train the next generation of physician-scientists and clinician-investigators in these areas. As part of the NIH intramural research program, the program is uniquely positioned to perform clinical and translational studies in the NIH Clinical Center, the world’s largest hospital and outpatient facility devoted exclusively to clinical investigation.  The NIAMS has a long and successful history of clinical investigation into the pathogenesis and treatment of rheumatic diseases dating back to the 1960’s, with emphases on systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory muscle disease, and hereditary periodic fever syndromes, now recognized to be part of the spectrum of autoinflammatory diseases, a term coined at NIH. These studies stem from the interests of the clinical and basic investigators in the Institute as well as through aligning with the strengths of the NIH Clinical Center, including the study of rare diseases, innovative proof-of concept (PoC) clinical trials, and longitudinal clinical studies.

The NIAMS clinical research program, in partnership with other NIH intramural research programs, currently focuses its research in the areas of autoinflammatory diseases, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, spondylarthropathies, outcomes research, vasculitis, myositis, and selected bone and dermatological diseases.

Translational Research: The Bridge Between Basic Research and Clinical Disease

A goal of clinical investigation is to bridge information gained from laboratory research with that afforded by clinical experience. Carefully designed observational and interventional studies provide opportunities to verify basic biological understanding of disease. These studies then bring back to the laboratory new insights into the normal functioning of the organ and cellular systems underlying human health and disease.

Training Programs

The NIAMS Clinical Research Program includes ACGME-certified Rheumatology Fellowship Training Program, a joint Pediatric Rheumatology Fellowship Program with Childrens’ National Medical Center in Washington, DC, and Advanced basic, translational clinical research training in Rheumatology and Dermatology through the NIAMS Scholars in Translational Research Program.

NIAMS Community Health Clinic

In addition to its disease-focused clinical research programs, NIAMS operates a community health clinic which provides specialist care and screening for participation in clinical research studies for underserved patients in the local area with serious rheumatological conditions. The clinic is located on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland.

Contact Us

Natalie Tobar

Staff Assistant
9000 Rockville Pike
Bethesda MD 20892

Core Research Facilities

Labs at the NIAMS are supported by the following state-of-the-art facilities and services:

Clinical Trials

The Clinical Program is engaged in several observational studies to understand the natural history of several rheumatic diseases and to test therapeutic interventions. For more information or to access a Protocol, please search the database of clinical studies being conducted at the NIH Clinical Center.

Ankylosing Spondylitis and Spondyloarthritis

ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01422694
Spondyloarthritis encompasses a spectrum of immune-mediated inflammatory diseases that exhibit overlapping features, but differ from other types of inflammatory arthritis in genetic predisposition, pathogenesis, and outcome. Ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Researchers are interested in studying people with SpA and their relatives to determine which people are more likely to develop more severe conditions.

Autoimmune Diseases

Active, not recruiting
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02338999
Lupus causes a person's immune system to attack the body. It can cause blood vessel problems, heart attack, or stroke. Researchers want to see if the drug pioglitazone may help and to see how well pioglitazone improves blood vessel function and decreases blood vessel inflammation. To study its effect on lupus symptoms.
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT05502796
Dr. Leslie Castelo-Soccio is the Principal Investigator of this study. Alopecia is the loss of hair or lack of hair growth. It is often related to an immune disorder that disrupts the growth of hair. Hair loss can affect a person s physical and mental health. The causes of alopecia are not well understood. This natural history study will examine causes of alopecia so better treatments can be developed.
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT04690816 
This is an observational study to characterize how COVID-19 modulates systemic inflammation, autoimmune features and vasculopathy in adult and pediatric patients with a prior diagnosis of systemic autoimmunity, and their overall outcomes including response to potential antiviral treatments or vaccines.

Autoinflammatory Diseases

ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00059748
Autoinflammatory multisystem diseases are a group of diseases that are characterized by recurrent episodes of systemic inflammation as well as organ specific inflammation that can involve the skin, eyes, joints, bones, serosal surfaces, inner ear, and brain. In this research protocol we seek to comprehensively evaluate affected patients clinically, genetically, immunologically, and endocrinologically. In addition we intend to evaluate longterm outcomes and biomarkers over the time of observations.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (Lupus)

ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT05440422 
This is a double blind placebo-controlled study to characterize whether blocking type I IFN receptor signaling with anifrolumab will lead to improvements in vascular function, decreases in vascular inflammation and modulation of biomarkers of vascular risk in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT05567198 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a disease that affects females nine times more often than males. People with SLE are often treated with cyclophosphamide (CYC). But CYC can damage a woman s ovaries; it may cause infertility. A drug called GnRHa is sometimes given to protect the ovaries during CYC therapy. But no one really knows how effective GnRHa treatment is. This natural history survey will compare women who received GnRHa during CYC therapy with those who did not.
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00001372
This protocol will evaluate patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and their relatives to learn more about how the disease develops and changes over time. It will also study genetic factors that make a person susceptible to SLE

Rheumatic Diseases

ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02504879
The rare disease melorheostosis causes bones to thicken. This may lead to pain, and can affect bones, joints, and muscles. Researchers want to learn more about the disease and how it progresses.
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00024479
This study will explore the causes of rheumatic diseases and why many of them affect certain minority communities more severely.

Tumor Necrosis Factor Receptor-Associated Periodic Syndrome

Active, not recruiting
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01793519
Researchers want to see if people with RA in remission on a TNF inhibitor can stay in remission without this medicine. Also there may be a clinical, imaging (MRI, ultrasound), laboratory profile that will help to determine which patients remain in remission after stopping these drugs. This study will provide important new information on the best treatment approach for patients with RA in remission.


ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00001265
This study of inflammatory muscle diseases-polymyositis and dermatomyositis and related disorders-will examine what causes these diseases and describe the clinical features (signs and symptoms) associated with them. Inflammation and degeneration of skeletal muscles in these disorders leads to weakness and muscle wasting. The skin, lungs and other organs may also be involved.

Juvenile Myositis

Active, not recruiting
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01724580
The Requesting Physician/Investigator contacts Lilly when, based on their medical opinion, a patient meets the criteria for inclusion in the expanded access program.


ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT05738824
This is an observational study to characterize the different types of inflammatory myopathies, understand their etiology, pathogenesis, prognosis, and response to different treatments. 


ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02257866
Vasculitis is a group of diseases that inflame and damage blood vessels and tissue. It can cause many medical problems. Few tests can diagnose the disease, and none can reliably predict a relapse. Researchers want to study people s genes and follow people over time to see how the disease affects them.

Skin Diseases

ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02471352
Skin diseases represent one of the most common medical problems in the United States, affecting 1 in 3 people at any given time. This study aims to procure biologic samples for exploratory cellular, molecular, genetic and genomic biological studies from subjects with dermatologic conditions, subjects at risk for developing dermatologic conditions and healthy volunteers in the support of NIH biomedical studies.
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00001506
This is a training, natural history of disease, and screening protocol for the evaluation, treatment and follow-up of patients with dermatologic diseases and systemic diseases with cutaneous manifestations. This protocol was developed to allow subject enrollment for teaching purposes and to allow for second opinions regarding relatively complicated patients, and to allow for evaluation of non-invasive tools for the diagnosis and monitoring of cutaneous manifestations. 
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01631617
Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, is a chronic skin disorder. The use of antibiotics has revolutionized medicine, yet the impact of antimicrobials on the human microbiome is incompletely understood. This study aims to characterize microbiome alterations in healthy adult volunteers and patients with atopic dermatitis after antimicrobial treatments.

Systemic Arthritis and Autoinflammation

ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03510442
Inflammatory conditions can cause symptoms like fevers, arthritis, and rash. Systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis (sJIA) is one of these conditions. So is adult-onset Still s disease (AOSD). Their causes are unknown. Researchers want to learn more about these conditions. This includes genetic changes and environmental factors.

Scientific Publications

Selected Recent Publications

Janus kinase (JAK) inhibition with baricitinib in refractory juvenile dermatomyositis.

Kim H, Dill S, O'Brien M, Vian L, Li X, Manukyan M, Jain M, Adeojo LW, George J, Perez M, Grom AA, Sutter M, Feldman BM, Yao L, Millwood M, Brundidge A, Pichard DC, Cowen EW, Shi Y, Lu S, Tsai WL, Gadina M, Rider LG, Colbert RA
Ann Rheum Dis.
2021 Mar;
doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2020-218690
PMID: 32843325

JAK1/2 inhibition with baricitinib in the treatment of autoinflammatory interferonopathies.

Sanchez GAM, Reinhardt A, Ramsey S, Wittkowski H, Hashkes PJ, Berkun Y, Schalm S, Murias S, Dare JA, Brown D, Stone DL, Gao L, Klausmeier T, Foell D, de Jesus AA, Chapelle DC, Kim H, Dill S, Colbert RA, Failla L, Kost B, O'Brien M, Reynolds JC, Folio LR, Calvo KR, Paul SM, Weir N, Brofferio A, Soldatos A, Biancotto A, Cowen EW, Digiovanna JJ, Gadina M, Lipton AJ, Hadigan C, Holland SM, Fontana J, Alawad AS, Brown RJ, Rother KI, Heller T, Brooks KM, Kumar P, Brooks SR, Waldman M, Singh HK, Nickeleit V, Silk M, Prakash A, Janes JM, Ozen S, Wakim PG, Brogan PA, Macias WL, Goldbach-Mansky R
J Clin Invest.
2018 Jul 2;
doi: 10.1172/JCI98814
PMID: 29649002

Germline gain-of-function myeloid differentiation primary response gene-88 (MYD88) mutation in a child with severe arthritis.

Sikora KA, Bennett JR, Vyncke L, Deng Z, Tsai WL, Pauwels E, Layh-Schmitt G, Brundidge A, Navid F, Zaal KJM, Hanson E, Gadina M, Staudt LM, Griffin TA, Tavernier J, Peelman F, Colbert RA
J Allergy Clin Immunol.
2018 May;
doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2018.01.027
PMID: 29427642

Neutrophil subsets and their gene signature associate with vascular inflammation and coronary atherosclerosis in lupus.

Carlucci PM, Purmalek MM, Dey AK, Temesgen-Oyelakin Y, Sakhardande S, Joshi AA, Lerman JB, Fike A, Davis M, Chung JH, Playford MP, Naqi M, Mistry P, Gutierrez-Cruz G, Dell'Orso S, Naz F, Salahuddin T, Natarajan B, Manna Z, Tsai WL, Gupta S, Grayson P, Teague H, Chen MY, Sun HW, Hasni S, Mehta NN, Kaplan MJ
JCI Insight.
2018 Apr 19;
pii: 99276. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.99276
PMID: 29669944

IL1RN Variation Influences Both Disease Susceptibility and Response to Recombinant Human Interleukin-1 Receptor Antagonist Therapy in Systemic Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis.

Arthur VL, Shuldiner E, Remmers EF, Hinks A, Grom AA, Foell D, Martini A, Gattorno M, Özen S, Prahalad S, Zeft AS, Bohnsack JF, Ilowite NT, Mellins ED, Russo R, Len C, Oliveira S, Yeung RSM, Rosenberg AM, Wedderburn LR, Anton J, Haas JP, Rösen-Wolff A, Minden K, Szymanski AM, INCHARGE Consortium, Thomson W, Kastner DL, Woo P, Ombrello MJ
Arthritis Rheumatol.
2018 Aug;
doi: 10.1002/art.40498
PMID: 29609200

(18) F-Fluorodeoxyglucose-Positron Emission Tomography As an Imaging Biomarker in a Prospective, Longitudinal Cohort of Patients With Large Vessel Vasculitis.

Grayson PC, Alehashemi S, Bagheri AA, Civelek AC, Cupps TR, Kaplan MJ, Malayeri AA, Merkel PA, Novakovich E, Bluemke DA, Ahlman MA
Arthritis Rheumatol.
2018 Mar;
doi: 10.1002/art.40379
PMID: 29145713

Updated efficacy of avelumab in patients with previously treated metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma after ≥1 year of follow-up: JAVELIN Merkel 200, a phase 2 clinical trial.

Kaufman HL, Russell JS, Hamid O, Bhatia S, Terheyden P, D'Angelo SP, Shih KC, Lebbé C, Milella M, Brownell I, Lewis KD, Lorch JH, von Heydebreck A, Hennessy M, Nghiem P
J Immunother Cancer.
2018 Jan 19;
doi: 10.1186/s40425-017-0310-x
PMID: 29347993

STAT5B: A Differential Regulator of the Life and Death of CD4(+) Effector Memory T Cells.

Majri SS, Fritz JM, Villarino AV, Zheng L, Kanellopoulou C, Chaigne-Delalande B, Grönholm J, Niemela JE, Afzali B, Biancalana M, Pittaluga S, Sun A, Cohen JL, Holland SM, O'Shea JJ, Uzel G, Lenardo MJ
J Immunol.
2018 Jan 1;
doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1701133
PMID: 29187589

BACH2 immunodeficiency illustrates an association between super-enhancers and haploinsufficiency.

Afzali B, Grönholm J, Vandrovcova J, O'Brien C, Sun HW, Vanderleyden I, Davis FP, Khoder A, Zhang Y, Hegazy AN, Villarino AV, Palmer IW, Kaufman J, Watts NR, Kazemian M, Kamenyeva O, Keith J, Sayed A, Kasperaviciute D, Mueller M, Hughes JD, Fuss IJ, Sadiyah MF, Montgomery-Recht K, McElwee J, Restifo NP, Strober W, Linterman MA, Wingfield PT, Uhlig HH, Roychoudhuri R, Aitman TJ, Kelleher P, Lenardo MJ, O'Shea JJ, Cooper N, Laurence ADJ
Nat Immunol.
2017 Jul;
doi: 10.1038/ni.3753
PMID: 28530713

Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis strain diversity underlying pediatric atopic dermatitis.

Byrd AL, Deming C, Cassidy SKB, Harrison OJ, Ng WI, Conlan S, NISC Comparative Sequencing Program, Belkaid Y, Segre JA, Kong HH
Sci Transl Med.
2017 Jul 5;
doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aal4651
PMID: 28679656

Spatial distribution of syndesmophytes along the vertebral rim in ankylosing spondylitis: preferential involvement of the posterolateral rim.

Tan S, Dasgupta A, Yao J, Flynn JA, Yao L, Ward MM
Ann Rheum Dis.
2016 Nov;
doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2015-208802
PMID: 26797721