Nobel Prize Committee Decides to Award Scientist who Died Days Ago

By @Len_IBTimes on

Shortly after announcements were made for the Nobel Prize for medicine Monday, news came out that one of the awardees died just three days ago.

Canadian Ralph Steinman, one of three scientists awarded for the medicine category, had suffered for four years from pancreatic cancer, a disease which he battled with an extraordinary understanding of the immune system, for which he was given the Nobel prize.

The Nobel Foundation says in its website the Nobel Prize has stopped awarding prizes posthumously since 1974. Steinman's death momentarily put in question Monday because of this.

Goran Hansson, Secretary-General of the Nobel Committee, said that the committee was unaware that Steinman had died when they announced him as winner.

After an emergency meeting at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute, Nobel officials announced on the same day that Steinman would share the award with American Bruce Beutler and French scientist Jules Hoffmann.

"The Nobel Prize to Ralph Steinman was made in good faith, based on the assumption that the Nobel laureate was alive," foundation officials said in a statement.

Steinman's family, represented by his daughter Alexis, has released a statement regarding the prestigious recognition: "We are all so touched that our father's many years of hard work are being recognized with a Nobel Prize... He devoted his life to his work and his family, and he would be truly honored."

The discoveries of the scientists 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 told The Associated Press.

"This year's Nobel laureates have revolutionized our understanding of the immune system by discovering key principles for its activation," stated the award panel.

Beutler and Hoffmann discovered in the 1990s 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.

Steinman discovered dendritic cells two decades ago. These cells help regulate adaptive immunity, the next stage of the immune system's response, when the invading microorganisms are purged from the body.

Lars Klareskog, the chairman of the prize-giving Nobel Assembly, told Reuters: "I am very excited about what these discoveries mean. I think that we will have new, better vaccines against microbes and that is very much needed now with the increased resistance against antibiotics... I also expect that there will be some development in the area of attacking cancers from the self-immune system. There are some promising things there."



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