About the Award

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 70 years, has honored many outstanding contributors.

Ruslan Medzhitov, Yale School of Medicine and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, received the 2024 Jessie Stevenson Kovalenko Medal.

Medzhitov’s pioneering contributions have advanced our understanding of the mechanisms of innate immunity, which provides immediate defense against infection.

His research incorporates insights from metabolism, neuroscience, and the microbiota to examine innate immunity, including molecular mechanisms of innate immune recognition, control of adaptive immune responses by innate immune recognition, and mechanisms of autoimmunity and allergy. His work has elucidated the fundamental link between innate immune system signaling and the induction of adaptive immune responses and describes the key molecular pieces and cell biology involved in the process.

2024 Kovalenko Medal, social

Medzhitov’s many fundamental discoveries concerning the importance of Toll-like receptors in controlling adaptive immunity, infections, chronic inflammation, and tumor growth have had enormous impact in multiple areas of medicine, including inflammatory and metabolic diseases, infectious disease and vaccine design, cancer, and allergic disease.

Watch Medzhitov’s acceptance speech.

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.

Previous recipients of the Jessie Stevenson Kovalenko Medal continue to achieve outstanding advancements in their fields. Three recipients have been honored with a National Medal of Science, nine recipients have received a Lasker Award, and six recipients have received a Nobel Prize in Medicine (Rous 1966; Whipple 1934; Karikó 2023; Weissman 2023), in Chemistry (Lefkowitz 2012), and in Physiology (Allison 2018).

Most Recent Recipient
Ruslan Medzhitov, 2024 Jessie Stevenson Kovalenko Medal
Ruslan Medzhitov
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Awards will be presented in a variety of fields including biophysics, astronomy, microbiology, medical sciences, and more.

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Award Types

Previous Award Recipients

Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman
Bert Vogelstein
James P. Allison
Huda Y. Zoghbi
Stuart H. Orkin
Janet D. Rowley