Foundation for the NIH Announces Lurie Prize Recognizing Outstanding Achievement by a Young Biomedical Scientist
Ruslan M. Medzhitov, PhD to Receive Inaugural Prize for Ground-Breaking Work Exploring the Immune System
Bethesda, MD (February 26, 2013) - The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) today announced that Ruslan M. Medzhitov, PhD, David W. Wallace Professor of Immunobiology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator at Yale University School of Medicine, has been awarded the inaugural Lurie Prize in the Biomedical Sciences for seminal discoveries related to the innate immune system, the human body’s first line of defense against invading organisms which cause infection.
A jury of eminent scientists headed by Solomon Snyder, MD, Director-Emeritus of The Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University, selected Medzhitov, 46, for the honor from a group of 154 nominees. The annual prize honors early-career researchers whose findings have advanced basic biomedical science. The award, which carries an honorarium of $100,000, will be presented to Medzhitov at a ceremony on Tuesday, May 14 in Chicago.
The innate immune system rapidly mobilizes a response to infection and, together with the adaptive immune system, is crucial to protecting human health. In laying out the rationale for granting the award, Snyder said Medzhitov discovered and characterized a class of proteins called Toll-like receptors which recognize and facilitate the immune response to toxic proteins.
“Dr. Medzhitov’s painstaking studies paved the way for the identification of multiple TLR family members and their respective ligands which help bind molecules forming larger complexes, advancing the entire field of immunology and opening the way for the development of new vaccines and treatments,” Snyder said. “He is a true pioneer of medical science.”
Born in Tashkent in the former Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan, Dr. Medzhitov studied biology and biochemistry when financial resources for scientific research were scarce. While poring over single copies of medical journals, he discovered an article by Dr. Charles A. Janeway, Jr. that sparked his interest in immunology and eventually led to a fellowship in the U.S. and current professorship in immunobiology at Yale University, in New Haven, Connecticut.
“I am very grateful to be the first recipient of the Lurie Prize and appreciate the recognition of not only my own work but that of young scientists in biomedical research who will be so recognized in the future,” said Medzhitov.
The Lurie Prize was established by well-known, global philanthropist Ann Lurie. It reflects her passion for advancing biomedical research and medical care. Her significant financial commitments have launched and benefited research and development, as well as patient care initiatives at the University of Michigan; Northwestern University; the recently-dedicated Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago; and health initiatives in Kenya, China and Rwanda.
“My specific interest is to reward and acknowledge a scientist who makes a discovery that is clearly a game changer in terms of medical and biological research,” said Ms. Lurie.
The Lurie Prize recognizes young scientists, defined as individuals under the age of 52, who have made paradigm changing contributions to biomedical research.
“The Lurie Prize celebrates biomedical research and more importantly, the most outstanding young investigator on the basis of his or her body of work,” said Maria Freire, PhD, President of the FNIH. “Dr. Medzhitov is one of the most brilliant scientists in the field of immunology today and we are proud to present to him this inaugural prize.”
“The FNIH is grateful to Ann Lurie for her tireless work in promoting investment in medical research,” said Charles A. Sanders, MD, Chairman of the FNIH. “We are particularly thankful for her unwavering support of young scientists like Dr. Medzhitov whose work is leading the way in the field of immunology.”
For more information on Dr. Medzhitov’s discovery and the Lurie Prize, please visit: www.fnih.org.
About the Foundation for the NIH
Established by the United States Congress to support the mission of the NIH—improving health through scientific discovery in the search for cures—the Foundation for the NIH is a leader in identifying and addressing complex scientific and health issues. The foundation is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization that raises private-sector funds for a broad portfolio of unique programs that complement and enhance NIH priorities and activities. For additional information about the Foundation for the NIH, please visit www.fnih.org.
Foundation for the NIH
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