STOCKHOLM, Sweden – The Canadian-born scientist who won this year’s Nobel Prize in medicine has died, Rockefeller University said Monday.
The New York-based university said Ralph Steinman died last Friday.
Steinman, 68, was born in Quebec and was one of three scientists who won this year’s Nobel Prize in medicine for discoveries about the immune system that opened new avenues for the treatment and prevention of infectious illnesses and cancer.
Steinman shared the $1.5-million (U.S.) award with American Bruce Beutler and French scientist Jules Hoffmann, the Nobel committee at Stockholm’s Karolinska institute said.
Steinman had been affiliated with Rockefeller University in New York since 1970, and headed its Center for Immunology and Immune Diseases.
The discoveries by the three have enabled the development of improved vaccines against infectious diseases.
Beutler and Hoffmann were cited “for their discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity.”
Steinman was honoured for “his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in adaptive immunity.”
Beutler and Hoffman discovered receptor proteins that can recognize bacteria and other microorganisms as they enter the body, and activate the first line of defence in the immune system.
Steinman discovered dendritic cells in the immune system, which help regulate the next stage of the immune system’s response, when the invading microorganisms are purged from the body.
The trio’s discoveries have enabled the development of new methods for treating and preventing diseases, including improved vaccines and in attempts to help the immune system to attack tumors, the committee said.
The medicine award kicked off a week of Nobel Prize announcements, and will be followed by the physics prize on Tuesday, chemistry on Wednesday, literature on Thursday and the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. The winners of the economics award will be announced on Oct. 10.
The coveted prizes were established by wealthy Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel — the inventor of dynamite — except for the economics award, which was created by Sweden’s central bank in 1968 in Nobel’s memory.
The prizes are always handed out on Dec. 10, on the anniversary of Nobel’s death in 1896.
Last year’s medicine award went to British professor Robert Edwards for fertility research that led to the first test tube baby.