G1 – Nobel Prize winner in medicine died three days before the prize was announced

Canadian Ralph Steinman, Nobel Prize winner
of medicine in 2011, died on 30
September (Photo: AP)

One of the winners of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Medicine, Canadian Ralph Steinman, died on Friday (30) at the age of 68 from pancreatic cancer, just three days before the prize was announced. The information was confirmed by Rockefeller University in the United States, where Steinman taught.

“The Rockefeller University is delighted that the Nobel Foundation has recognized Ralph Steinman for his pivotal discoveries about the body’s immune responses,” Dean Marc Tessier-Lavigne said in a statement. “But the news has a bitter aftertaste as we learned this morning from Ralph’s family that he passed away just a few days ago after a long battle with cancer. Our thoughts are with the wife, children and to Ralph’s family.”

The winners were announced this Monday (3). The prize was shared between Steinman and scientists Bruce Beutler and Jules Hoffmann.

According to Nobel Prize rules, posthumous nominations are not permitted. However, in the event of the winner’s death between the decision and the award, the choice is maintained.

Nobel committee chairman Goeran Hansson told Swedish news agency TT that the group was unaware of Steinman’s death at the time of the announcement, but confirmed his selection as a Nobel laureate of Medicine 2011.

“We have just received the information. What we can do now is just regret that he could not have this joy,” he said.

According to Hansson, the committee is debating how the prize will be awarded after the researcher’s death.

The Karonlinska Institute, which is responsible for the Nobel Prize, issued a statement after receiving news of the death. “It is with great sadness that the Nobel Committee of the Karolinska Institute learns that Professor Ralph Steinman, one of this year’s three laureates in physiology or medicine, died on September 30. The news was transmitted by the rector of Rockefeller University, where Professor Steinman worked at 2:30 p.m. [horário da Europa  — 9h30 em Brasília], on Monday October 3, 2011, following the decision and announcement of this year’s prize. Our thoughts are with Ralph Steinman’s family and colleagues.”


Steinman is remembered for studying the second stage of the body’s defense against threats. In 1973, he discovered a type of cell called “dendritic”. The presence of these cells makes T lymphocytes, important cells in the body’s defense, function.

T cells are the same cells attacked by the virus that causes AIDS. When they don’t work, people’s bodies become fragile in the face of opportunistic illnesses like pneumonia and the flu.

Ralph Steinman’s daughter, Alexis, spoke out in a university statement. “We are humbled that our father’s many years of hard work will be recognized with a Nobel Prize. He dedicated his life to his work and his family and would be truly honored.”

Info Nobel Medicine 2011 (Photo: Arte/G1)

Grayson Saunders

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