The Inaugural $100,000 Lurie Prize, awarded to a promising young scientist (under age 52) who is contributing to the advancement of basic biomedical science and making changing contributions to biomedical research, held a reception and presentation ceremony last Tuesday May 14. Chicago’s own Global Philanthropist and FNIH Board memberAnn Lurie generously donated the amount and presented to the 2013 Lurie Prize winner Dr. Ruslan Medzhitov -David Wallace Professor of Immunobiology at Yale University School of Medicine.
The evening began with a reception in the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Family Atrium of the Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center where leading researchers and MD’s chatted while a trio of The Civic Orchestra of Chicago- Chicago Symphony Orchestra played. Guests then entered the dining area and welcome remarks were given by FNIH Chairman Dr. Charles Sanders(former chairman and CEO of Glaxo Inc.). He highlighted some of the work FNIH has done and continues to do in the realm of research(Partnership with NFL to study traumatic brain injuries and after effects).
The Honorable John Edward Porter followed, pleased to be back home in Chicago-he was former Congressman from IL 10th District.
Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine VP of Medical Affairs, Dr. Eric G. Neilson, also addressed guests in attendance. During his remarks he noted what is needed in order for the next generation of scientists and care providers to continue which includes skilled mentors. Ending his speech with a line from Mary Lasker “If you think research is expensive, try the disease.” Think about that. Dr. Maria Freire-President and Executive Director of FNIH and Ann Lurie who noted that her late husband would tell people to “smell the roses, kiss and hug your wife, children, family because you never know what tomorrow will bring.” Also in attendance were Ms. Lisabeth Stiffel, Former Northwestern University president Henry Bean, Lurie Prize selection committee’s Solomon Snyder(Chair Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University)
Before Dr. Medzitov was presented with his prize, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins who was unable to attend the presentation due to a conflict in schedule addressed guests via recorded message where he closed it off with a song called “The Sequester Blues” alluding to the sequester that threatens to cut funding to organizations such as National Institute of Health. It was the hilarious highlight of the evening, aside from the honoree of course. It definitely showed a humorous side to the studious group in the room.
Dr. Medzhitov thanked FNIH and Ann Lurie for the coveted and prestigious prize- 154 applications. Since he is the first recipient of this award he noted that he hopes to set a good example for others to come.
The cool thing the event organizer did? At each table they had a card that included the names and affiliations of each guest at your table to help ease conversation I presume, it was a nice touch.
Dr. Medzhitov discovered and characterized a class of proteins called Toll-like receptors that recognize and facilitate the immune response to toxic proteins. The innate immune system rapidly mobilizes a response to infection and, together with the adaptive immune system, is crucial to protecting human health. it was noted that an article by Dr. Charles A. Janeway who later became his mentor sparked his interest in immunology.
“This inaugural Lurie Prize bestowed tonight recognizes the critical importance of young, talented scientists like Dr. Medzhitov who are in the prime of their research careers,” said Dr. Sanders. “The FNIH is thankful for Ann Lurie’s unwavering commitment to promoting investment in biomedical research and patient care, with particular focus on children.”
The work of people like Dr. Medzhitov is to be commended because in the age we live in though we are technologically advanced, disease of all magnitudes continues to manifest and it’s his work in some ways to help find cure or at least answers to why those diseases occur.