Canadian Scientist Died Three Days Before Winning Nobel Prize In Medicine
Canadian scientist Ralph Steinman was among three men awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine this morning in Stockholm, but hours later his university announced that he had passed away three days earlier after a battle with cancer:
A Canadian-born scientist was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday for his discoveries about the immune system but hours later his university said that he had been dead for three days.
The Nobel committee had been unaware of Ralph Steinman’s death and it was unclear whether the prize would be rescinded because Nobel statutes don’t allow posthumous awards.
Steinman, 68, who shared the prize with American Bruce Beutler and French scientist Jules Hoffmann, died on Sept. 30 of pancreatic cancer, acccording to Rockefeller University, which said he had been treated with immunotherapy based on his discovery of dendritic cells two decades earlier.
The cells help regulate adaptive immunity, an immune system response that purges invading microorganisms from the body.
Nobel committee member Goran Hansson said the Nobel committee didn’t know Steinman was dead when it chose him as a winner and was looking through its regulations.
An earlier statement from the award panel at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute said, “this year’s Nobel laureates have revolutionized our understanding of the immune system by discovering key principles for its activation,” the award panel at said in a statement in Stockholm.
The trio’s discoveries have enabled the development of improved vaccines against infectious diseases. In the long term they could also yield better treatments of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and chronic inflammatory diseases, hansson said.
Beutler and Hoffmann were cited for their discoveries in the 1990s of receptor proteins that can recognize bacteria and other microorganisms as they enter the body, and activate the first line of defense in the immune system, known as innate immunity.
The work of the three scientists has been pivotal to the development of improved types of vaccines against infectious diseases and novel approaches to fighting cancer. The research has helped lay the foundations for a new wave of “therapeutic vaccines” that stimulate the immune system to attack tumors.
“They have made possible the development of new methods for preventing and treating disease, for instance with improved vaccines against infections and in attempts to stimulate the immune system to attack tumors,” the committee said.
Sad news, indeed, and there’ s no word on what happens to Steinman’s Nobel considering that the was dead when it was awarded. Typically, Nobel Prizes are not awarded posthumously.
Update: The committee that awards the Nobel Prize in Medicine has announced that Steinman will be given the award posthumously:
Canadian scientist Ralph Steinman will keep his Nobel prize for medicine, the Nobel Foundation has said, after his death on Friday threw it into doubt.
The rules state “work by a person since deceased shall not be considered”.
But the foundation said it was unaware of Prof Steinman’s death from pancreatic cancer and that the award had been made “in good faith”.