|Ruslan M. Medzhitov
Medzhitov named first
incumbent of Wallace chair
Ruslan M. Medzhitov, who has been designated as the first David W. Wallace
Professor of Immunobiology, has done pioneering work on the molecular mechanisms
that drive the body’s immune response.
The new Wallace Professorship is one of five endowed chairs at the School of
Medicine established by philanthropist and retired corporate executive David
W. Wallace, a 1948 graduate of Yale’s School of Engineering, and his
wife, Jean. The Wallaces were also major contributors to the renovation of
Medzhitov was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and earned a B.S. at Tashkent State
University before going on to pursue a Ph.D. in biochemistry at Moscow University
in 1990. At that time the Soviet Union was disintegrating and funding for science
was drying up. Because laboratories were short of supplies, Medzhitov spent
much of his time in the library, reading about modern biomedical science. There,
he came upon a paper by Yale immunobiologist Charles Janeway (now deceased),
who was studying how the innate immune system, an evolutionarily ancient system
found in all multicellular animals, interacts with the adaptive immune system,
found only in vertebrates.
Medzhitov wrote to Janeway and was accepted for postdoctoral study at Yale,
arriving in 1994. The two researchers made the groundbreaking discovery that
Toll-like receptors, a component of the innate system, provide the adaptive
system with the necessary information to create custom-made B and T cells that
target specific bacterial or viral invaders.
Today, Medzhitov’s laboratory is continuing to investigate the role of
Toll-like receptors in how the innate immune system controls the adaptive system — particularly
their role in autoimmune disorders, inflammation and allergy — with the
goal of developing new strategies for vaccine design.
Since formally joining the Yale faculty in 1997 as an associate research scientist
in the Section of Immunobiology, Medzhitov has risen through the ranks to become
a full professor in 2003. In recognition of his seminal research, he was named
a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator in 2000. This fall, he was one
of the winners of the first New York Academy of Sciences Blavatnik Award for
Young Scientists, and in 2006, he received the American Association of Immunologists-BD
Bioscience Investigator Award for early-career researchers who have made outstanding
contributions to the field of immunology.
His other honors include a Searle Scholarship and the Emil von Behring Award.
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