Header Jessie Stevenson Kovalenko Medal

Header Jessie Stevenson Kovalenko Medal

About the Jessie Stevenson Kovalenko Medal

The Jessie Stevenson Kovalenko Medal is awarded every two years for outstanding research in the medical sciences. The medal carries with it a $25,000 award, and an additional $50,000 for research. The Kovalenko Fund, gifted by Michael S. Kovalenko in 1949 to the National Academy of Science in memory of his wife, Jessie Stevenson Kovalenko, was specifically designed to recognize the achievements made to the medical sciences and, over the past 63 years, has honored many outstanding contributors.

Most Recent Recipient

Huda Y. Zoghbi, Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, professor at the Baylor College of Medicine, and director of the Jan and Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital, received the 2016 Jessie Stevenson Kovalenko Medal.Zoghbi has combined cell biology, mouse genetics, and human clinical genetics to reveal fundamental mechanisms underlying a wide range of diseases and disorders. She has shaped the study of neurodegenerative diseases in which the underlying problem is often a protein that accumulates and is toxic to cells; Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are the most famous members of this family of “proteinopathies.” She has provided compelling insights into the spinocerebellar ataxias, identifying a promising therapeutic target for spinocerebellar ataxia Type 1. And she has made huge contributions to knowledge about Rett syndrome, a form of autism. In 1999, Zoghbi discovered that the syndrome is caused by mutations in the X-linked gene MECP2, which is involved in the epigenetic regulation of gene expression. This established Rett syndrome as an epigenetic disease and showed that autism can be a genetic disorder caused by largely sporadic mutations. Read more about Zoghbi's work»

Award History

The first Jessie Stevenson Kovalenko Medal was awarded to Alfred N. Richards in 1952 for his outstanding contributions to medical science over a period of a half-century, both as an investigator and as a research executive and administrator. Richards received his first honor in 1897, when he became the first graduate student at Columbia to earn his PhD in physiological chemistry. Richards’ early research focused on the liver and chronic indole poisoning as a possible cause for cyclic vomiting in children although later, he notably sought to study the physiological and ecological effects of the atomic bomb. Richards served as Chairman of the Committee on Medical Research for President Roosevelt and, from 1947-1950, he served as the National Academy of Sciences’ own President, overseeing the establishment of the National Science Foundation.


Huda Y. Zoghbi (2016)
For her pioneering contributions to the fields of neurodegenerative proteinopathies, autism spectrum disorders, epigenetics, and developmental biology by coupling clinical observation and gene discovery with focused, in-depth mechanistic study.
Read more about Zoghbi's work» 

Stuart H. Orkin (2013)
For his pioneering achievements in defining the molecular basis of blood disorders and the mechanisms governing the development of blood stem cells and individual blood lineages. His work has significantly advanced our understanding of human hematologic diseases and revealed new strategies to prevent and manage these disorders.

Janet D. Rowley (2010)
For her discovery of recurring chromosome translocations that characterize specific hematological malignancies, a landmark event that caused a major shift in the paradigms relating to cancer biology in the 1970s and paved the way for development of specific treatment for two leukemias.

Jeffrey M. Friedman (2007)
For the discovery of leptin and its role in the regulation of appetite, energy expenditure, and the molecular mechanisms underlying obesity.

Irving L. Weissman (2004)
For his seminal studies that defined the physical properties, purification, and growth regulation of multipotent hematopoietic stem cells.

Robert J. Lefkowitz (2001)
For his elucidation of the structure, function, and mechanism of regulation of heptahelical receptors, nature's detectors of signals from many hormones, neurotransmitters, and drugs.

Hugh O. McDevitt (1998)
For his landmark discovery and identification of genes that control immune responsiveness, and for his subsequent elucidation of mechanisms of antigen recognition and induction of the immune response.

Donald Metcalf (1994)
For his discovery and purification of the hemotopoietic growth factors and for their introduction into clinical medicine for the control of blood cell formation and resistance to infection.

Roscoe O. Brady (1991)
For revolutionary accomplishments in human sphingolipid storage disorders, including the discovery of enzymatic defects, the development of genetic counseling procedures, and successful enzyme-replacement therapy.

Maclyn McCarty (1988)
For the discovery and characterization, with Avery and McLeod, that deoxyribonucleic acid is the chemical substance of heredity, and for his subsequent contributions to our understanding of the biology of streptococci and their role in disease.

Oscar D. Ratnoff (1985)
For his studies of the Hageman trait, an experiment of nature that improved understanding of such bodily defenses as the formation and dissolution of blood clots, inflammation, and immunity.

Henry G. Kunkel (1979)
For his pioneering and influential studies in basic immunology, immune complex disease, immune deficiency disorders, and lymphocytic membrane markers.

Julius H. Comroe, Jr. (1976)
For his immeasurable contribution to the diagnosis and treatment of human disease during his career, which was devoted to the physiology and chemistry of respiration and the mechanical and chemical properties of the human lung.

Seymour S. Kety (1973)
For furthering the essential understanding of balance between hereditary and other biological factors, on the one hand, and psychosocial experimental ones, on the other, in the pathogenesis and manifestations of schizophrenia.

Thomas Francis, Jr. (1970)
For his laboratory and epidemiological researches on virus diseases, including his major role in the program for the evaluation of the polio vaccine and for his imaginative design for long-term studies of the atomic bomb survivors in Japan.

Karl P. Link (1967)
For his discovery and application of coumarin anticoagulants.

Rufus Cole (1966)
For his notable role in advancing our knowledge of lobar pneumonia and in establishing clinical investigation as a science.

George H. Whipple (1962)
For his contributions of many biological discoveries basic for advances in clinical and experimental medicine.

Karl F. Meyer (1961)
For his outstanding contributions to medical sciences as an investigator, teacher, and administrator over a period of half a century.

Eugene L. Opie (1959)
For his outstanding contributions to medical science and for a life of exemplary devotion to medical education and inquiry into the origins of disease.

Ernest W. Goodpasture (1958)
For his outstanding contributions to medical science and for long and continued devotion to the study of his chosen field of pathology.

Peyton Rous (1955)

Alfred N. Richards (1952)
For his outstanding contributions to medical science over a period of a half-century, both as an investigator and as a research executive and administrator.

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