Nobel Prize group breaks its own rules after unexpected death of recipient | Tecca

Nobel Prize group breaks its own rules after unexpected death of recipient

Immunologist Dr. Ralph M. Steinman will be one of the first posthumous Nobel Prize recipients

by | Last updated 7:55PM EDT on October 3, 2011

After one of the 2011 Nobel Prize honorees died on Friday, the Nobel commitee was forced with a tough choice: revoke Dr. Ralph M. Steinman’s prize, or allow him to be in violation of an essential tenet of the world’s most prestigious award? In a decision today, the Nobel committee opted to go against time-honored tradition — Steinman’s status as a Nobel winner won’t be revoked, since he was selected while he was still alive.

Along with two other researchers, Steinman was recognized within the medicine category for his work in immunology. In 1973, Steinman discovered dendritic cells, a new class of immune cell with practical applications for virus vaccination and cancer treatment. Dendritic cells are a kind of Antigen Presenting Cell (APC) known for their role in activating T cells — a process critical to the human body’s immune response. Steinman was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2007, and has been at work on a treatment for his own condition based on his work with dendritic cells.

The Nobel Prize was established in 1895 by Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite. The first round of honors across categories was awarded in 1901, spanning Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, and Peace. In 1961, the Nobel Prize was was also awarded posthumously, to a Swedish diplomat who (like Steinman) died after the award was announced but before the ceremony.

If you find the Nobel Prize’s research and tradition a bit too stuffy, check out the 2011 Ig Nobel Prizes — the serious ceremony’s zanier counterpart. This year’s Ig Nobel winners include publications on the yawning habits of tortoises and the viability of wasabi in waking up unsuspecting sleepers during emergencies.

[via The New York Times]
Nobel Prize group breaks its own rules after unexpected death of recipient | Tecca

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