Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation scientist John Harley, M.D., Ph.D., has been selected as a member of the Association of American Physicians.
Harley, who chairs OMRF’s Arthritis and Immunology Research Program, was one of only 60 physicians nationwide chosen for membership this year. The 124-year-old Association selects members based on excellence in the pursuit of medical knowledge and the advancement of clinical science.
Since joining OMRF in 1982, Harley, a rheumatologist, has focused his research and clinical practice on lupus, which is estimated to affect up to 1.5 million Americans and can be fatal. The disease can strike any part of the body—it most commonly attacks the joints, skin and kidneys—and has no known cure.
Harley’s work has centered on the genetics of lupus and has played a major role in identifying genes suspected of causing the disease. His lab has also found more than 20 separate genetic effects of lupus, and last year he led a major international effort that pinpointed 13 genes associated with the disease.
“If we could identify the genes that control whether a person is predisposed to lupus, we could learn why only a small fraction of the population develops the disease,” said Harley. “And this information would be the keystone for formulating new and more effective treatments for lupus.”
Harley created the Lupus Family Registry and Repository, a collection of biological samples from families in which multiple members suffer from lupus. The collection, which is the largest of its kind in the world, provides a crucial resource for lupus researchers around the globe and has served as the keystone for countless research projects.
In 2003, Harley drew worldwide media attention when he published a watershed lupus study in The New England Journal of Medicine revealing that certain antibodies appear in the blood years before patients show any outward symptoms of lupus. This discovery should help speed physicians’ ability to detect and clinically intervene against the disease.
“What sets Dr. Harley apart is his unrelenting pursuit of not only a better understanding of lupus, but of ways to improves the lives of patients suffering from the disease,” said OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D. “He has made a major impact on his field, and this honor is well-deserved.”
Harley earned his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. He joins seven other Oklahoma physicians—including OMRF’s Prescott, Rodger McEver and Morris Reichlin—as members of the Association.