University of Pittsburgh

The Dickson Prize in Medicine

2019 Dickson Prize Winner


Ruslan Medzhitov, PhD

Sterling Professor of Immunobiology, Yale University

Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Ruslan Medzhitov, PhD, one of the world’s leading immunology researchers is the recipient of the 2019 Dickson Prize in Medicine from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

In 1997, Medzhitov and his mentor, the late Charles Janeway Jr., MD, demonstrated that the molecular pattern recognition receptor Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) could induce gene activation important to the human immune response. TLR4 is known for recognizing lipopolysaccharide, a component in Gram-negative bacteria, some Gram-positive bacteria, several viral proteins, low-density lipoprotein, and a variety of other endogenous proteins.

He is also credited with many fundamental discoveries concerning the importance of Toll-like receptors in controlling adaptive immunity, infections, chronic inflammation, and tumor growth. Many drug companies are actively targeting these receptors in hopes of treating cancer, sepsis, and inflammatory disease.

Recently, Medzhitov’s scientific focus has included immunological factors relevant to allergic reaction and closer attention to tissue design and biology—particularly communication circuits that help to establish stable cellular communities within tissues. Disruptions in these circuits can lead to a number of degenerative, fibrotic, and neoplastic diseases. Of particular interest to the Medzhitov lab are the macrophages and stromal cells that reside in tissues. These two cell types, along with the microvascular endothelium, constitute universal components of vertebrate tissues.

Medzhitov is the Sterling Professor of Immunobiology at Yale University School of Medicine and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the Russian Academy of Sciences, and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2010, Medzhitov received the prestigious Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Research for elucidating the mechanisms of innate immunity. His numerous other awards include the 2011 Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine, and the Vilcek Foundation, Lurie, and the Else Kröner Fresenius Stiftung Prizes, all in 2013.

Medzhitov earned his bachelor’s degree at Tashkent State University in Uzbekistan before going on to pursue a PhD in biochemistry at Moscow University in 1990. He joined Yale University as a postdoctoral associate in 1994, where he remains today.