Public Release: 

BIDMC's George Tsokos, M.D., receives NIH MERIT award

Grant recognizes longstanding scientific contributions and will support lupus research

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

BOSTON -- George Tsokos, MD, Chief of the Division of Rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), has received a prestigious MERIT Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

A Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Tsokos received the award from the NIH's National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) for his longstanding work investigating molecular T-cell defects underlying systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The funding will support his project "Gene Transcription in SLE," in an extended cycle of 10 years, rather than the standard five-year timeframe of R01 grants.

MERIT stands for Method to Extend Research in Time, and these awards are presented at the discretion of the NIH to outstanding scientists who have demonstrated a stellar record of research accomplishments during their careers. Fewer than five percent of investigators are selected to receive these prestigious grants, which are made independent of an application process to recognize "consistent and excellent contributions to scientific knowledge."

"George Tsokos is a pioneering leader in the field of lupus research," notes BIDMC Chairman of Medicine Mark Zeidel, MD. "His novel work in immune cell signaling and gene transcription is providing key insights into the origins of this challenging and painful disease."

An autoimmune disorder that causes widespread inflammation and pain, especially to the skin and joints, lupus affects multiple organs and often leads to kidney damage. The disease strikes a million and a half individuals in the U.S., mainly women of childbearing age. Women of color are two to three more times more likely to develop lupus.

The MERIT award will extend Tsokos's work characterizing biochemical and molecular events that lead to decreased interleukin-2 production in lupus patients. "Interleukin-2 is vital to many functions of the immune system including immunoregulation and defense against infections," explains Tsokos. "Through the extended support provided through this NIH MERIT Award, our studies are expected to reveal approaches to correct interleukin-2 production and reverse disease progress. As we continue our exploration of the molecular origins of the multiple immune cell abnormalities in SLE, we aim to identify biomarkers for both disease diagnosis and therapeutic targets so that, ultimately, we can offer lupus patients new and better treatments."


Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and currently ranks third in National Institutes of Health funding among independent hospitals nationwide.

BIDMC has a network of community partners that includes Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Needham, Anna Jaques Hospital, Cambridge Health Alliance, Lawrence General Hospital, Signature Health Care, Commonwealth Hematology-Oncology, Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare, Community Care Alliance, and Atrius Health. BIDMC is also clinically affiliated with the Joslin Diabetes Center and Hebrew Senior Life and is a research partner of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox. For more information, visit

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