Yale’s Ruslan Medzhitov wins inaugural award for immunology

The Else Kröner-Fresenius-Foundation has awarded its inaugural international prize in immunology to renowned Yale immunobiologist Ruslan Medzhitov. The prize of 4 million euros was presented June 5 by the Federal Research Minister of Germany, Johanna Wanka, in a ceremony held at the German Historical Museum in Berlin. The award includes €3.5 million for research, and a €0.5 million personal award to Medzhitov.

Ruslan Medzhitov (photo by Bian Ach)

The award commemorates the 25th anniversary of the death of Else Kröner, who established the foundation in 1983, dedicating it to the support of medical research and humanitarian projects. Kröner supported young scientists and was interested in translational research as well as novel research into the origin and development of disease.

Medzhitov is the David W. Wallace Professor of Immunobiology at Yale School of Medicine and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. The award recognizes his pioneering contributions to the understanding of innate immunity, which provides immediate defense against infection. His studies helped elucidate the critical role of toll-like receptors (TLRs) in sensing microbial infections, mechanisms of TLR signaling, and activation of the inflammatory and immune response.

“The Else Kröner-Fresenius-Foundation is very pleased and proud to announce Dr. Ruslan Medzhitov as the award winner. Both his past contributions as well as his very exciting future research ideas make him an ideal candidate,” said Susanne Schultz-Hector, a member of the foundation board.

The Else Kröner-Fresenius-Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in Germany. To date, it has funded more than a thousand projects in medical research, as well as medical humanitarian projects in developing countries. This inaugural award in immunology represents a major step forward in a field considered crucial to understanding the biological mechanisms of disease pathogenesis.

“Immunology is not only essential for understanding infectious diseases or allergies, it is also involved in autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular diseases and cancer,” Schultz-Hector said. “It is a particularly fast-moving field of research, promising important breakthroughs in the near future.”

“I am very grateful to the Else Kröner-Fresenius-Foundation and its scientific jury for this amazing award. It is a huge honor and privilege to be recognized this way,” Medzhitov said. “This award is particularly meaningful because it provides a generous support for future studies.

Medzhitov has received many honors for his large body of work. Earlier this year, he was awarded the inaugural Lurie Prize in the Biomedical Sciences from the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health. The award, which honors early-career researchers whose findings have advanced basic biomedical science, was given to Medzhitov for his groundbreaking discoveries about the workings of the innate immune system. Also this year, he was co-recipient of the 2013 Vilcek Prize for Biomedical Science along with Richard Flavell, professor and chair of the Yale School of Medicine Department of Immunobiology.

In addition, Medzhitov was one of three scientists awarded the prestigious Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine for 2011, and won the 2010 Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Research. The Rosenstiel Award, founded in 1972 at Brandeis University, has a long record of identifying and honoring pioneering scientists who have subsequently been honored with the Lasker Award and Nobel Prize. Also in 2010, Medzhitov was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the elite corps of researchers from the nation’s top scientific institutions.

About the Else Kröner-Fresenius-Foundation

Promoting medical progress and helping people in need — these were the driving forces behind Else Kröner. Out of the Frankfurt Hirsch pharmacy and a smaller pharmaceutical business, the pharmaceutical entrepreneur built up the global healthcare group Fresenius, which currently employs about 170,000 people. When Kröner died on June 5, 1988 her assets were passed on to the non-profit organization, the Else Kröner-Fresenius-Foundation, which she founded in 1983. The Else Kröner-Fresenius-Foundation promotes top-class medical research and supports medical humanitarian projects. To date, the foundation has funded 1,100 projects with a total of approximately 150 million euros.

(Photo by Brian Ach)

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Helen Dodson: helen.dodson@yale.edu, 203-436-3984