March 24, 2021
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Photo of Dr. John O'Shea

NIAMS Scientific Director John J. O'Shea, M.D.

For his groundbreaking work in immunology, John J. O’Shea, M.D., will receive the eighth annual Harrington Prize for Innovation in Medicine. Dr. O’Shea is the scientific director and chief of the Molecular Immunology and Inflammation Branch at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). He shares the award with Warren J. Leonard, M.D., an NIH Distinguished Investigator at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

The Harrington Prize “honors physician-scientists who have moved science forward with achievements notable for innovation, creativity, and potential for clinical application.” Dr. O’Shea is being recognized for his work with the signaling protein JAK3 (Janus Kinase 3).

Dr. O’Shea and his colleagues at NIH discovered human JAK3 and the role it plays in the immune system. He then partnered with industry to develop a new class of drugs, called JAK inhibitors, that target inflammation and autoimmune diseases. NIH published a fact sheet that includes a timeline of the JAK3 discovery and related drug-development efforts.

Nine JAK inhibitors have now been approved by agencies around the world to treat rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, juvenile arthritis, ulcerative colitis, atopic dermatitis, graft versus host disease, and myeloproliferative neoplasms. The FDA granted emergency authorization to use the JAK inhibitor, baricitinib, as part of a multi-drug treatment for severe COVID-19.

As co-recipients of the award, Drs. O’Shea and Leonard will speak at the 2021 Harrington Scientific Symposium and deliver The Harrington Prize Lecture at the 2021 joint meeting of the Association of American Physicians, the American Society for Clinical Investigation, and the American Physician Scientists Association.

For more information about Dr. O’Shea’s research, visit his NIAMS laboratory page and his NIH Intramural Research Program listing. For more information about Dr. Leonard’s research, visit his NHLBI laboratory page and his NIH Intramural Research Program listing.

Established in 2014, the Harrington Prize for Innovation in Medicine is presented by the American Society for Clinical Investigation and Harrington Discovery Institute in Cleveland, Ohio.