Jessie Stevenson Kovalenko Medal

Jessie Stevenson Kovalenko Medal

To get awards news straight to your inbox, make sure to sign up for our Connect with Awards newsletter.

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 70 years, has honored many outstanding contributors.

Most Recent Recipient

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.

Read more about Medzhitov'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. 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).


Ruslan Medzhitov (2024)
For elucidating the fundamental link between innate immune system signaling and the induction of adaptive immune responses, and describing the key molecular pieces and cell biology involved in the process. Medzhitov has incorporated insights from metabolism, neuroscience, and the microbiota to explain how homeostasis is maintained and how inflammation occurs. 
Read more about Medzhitov's work» 

Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman (2022)
For their pioneering work in developing nucleoside-modified mRNA, the foundation for the first two approved COVID-19 vaccines.
Read more about their work» 
Watch thier acceptance speech» 

Bert Vogelstein (2020)
For his pioneering work in elucidating the fundamental principles of the molecular basis of human cancer and the application of this knowledge to improve the clinical management of patients.
Read more about Vogelstein's work» 
Watch Vogelstein's acceptance speech» 

James P. Allison (2018)
For the discovery that antibody blockade of the T cell molecule CTLA-4 unleashes the body’s immune response against malignant tumors and develops immune checkpoint blockade as a successful cancer therapy.
Read more about Allison's work» 
Watch Allison's acceptance speech» 

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»
Watch Zoghbi's acceptance speech» 

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.
Watch Orkin's acceptance speech» 

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.

Powered by Blackbaud
nonprofit software