October 20, 2014
Dr. John J. O'Shea
Dr. John J. O'Shea

John J. O’Shea, M.D., scientific director of the NIH’s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), has been elected to membership in the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences. The announcement was made on October 20, 2014, at the IOM’s 44th annual meeting in Washington, D.C. For 2014, 70 new members and 10 foreign associates were chosen.

Current, active IOM members elect new members annually from candidates nominated for professional achievement and commitment to issues that affect the public’s health. "John is a remarkable example of a clinician-scientist who has advanced the field of immunology by translating his discoveries into approaches that improve human health," said NIAMS Director Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D. "These discoveries are likely to benefit patients for years to come."

Dr. O’Shea has been a physician and immunologist at NIH for 33 years, where he has made fundamental discoveries related to the signaling of cytokines, molecules that are critical for the development and functioning of the immune system. His research also has focused on the molecular cause of primary immunodeficiencies, which are inherited conditions in which immune function is impaired, as well as the genetic basis of autoinflammatory disorders, conditions in which the body attacks its own tissues.

Dr. O’Shea discovered Janus kinase 3 (Jak3) and its role in cytokine signaling. He worked with colleagues at the NIH to show that genetic defects in Jak3 could cause severe combined immunodeficiency. Drugs that blocked the activity of Jak kinases, he and his colleagues reasoned, might suppress the immune system and protect against inflammation. This groundbreaking work led to collaboration with Pfizer, Inc., which generated one such compound, a JAK inhibitor that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Clinical trials exploring the use of JAK inhibitors for rare and common inflammatory diseases are ongoing.

Dr. O'Shea has been the recipient of numerous awards and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He will be formally welcomed to the IOM at next year’s annual meeting, scheduled for October 18-19, 2015.

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The mission of the NIAMS, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' National Institutes of Health, is to support research into the causes, treatment and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases; the training of basic and clinical scientists to carry out this research; and the dissemination of information on research progress in these diseases. For more information about the NIAMS, call the information clearinghouse at (301) 495-4484 or (877) 22-NIAMS (free call) or visit the NIAMS website at https://www.niams.nih.gov.