Wednesday 22 November 2017

Nobel Prize winner dies days before award is announced

Patrick Lannin in Stockholm

A scientist who won the Nobel Prize for medicine yesterday for work on fighting cancer died of the disease himself just three days before he could be told of his award.

Canadian-born Ralph Steinman (68) had been treating himself with a groundbreaking therapy based on his own research into the body's immune system but died on Friday after a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer.

The Nobel Committee at Sweden's Karolinska Institute, which does not make post- humous awards, appeared not to have known of Mr Steinman's death before making the announcement.

It said later it would not name a replacement, although the rules prohibit posthumous awards.

Mr Steinman's colleagues at Rockefeller University in New York called it a "bittersweet" honour.

Mr Steinman shared science's ultimate accolade with fellow researchers American Bruce Beutler and Jules Hoffmann of France.

The Nobel Committee's secretary general Goran Hansson described it as a "unique situation, because he died hours before the decision was made".

Mr Hansson said the panel would review what to do with the $1.5m (€1.13m) prizemoney.

Alexis Steinman, indicating that her father had not known on his deathbed of the impending decision in Stockholm, said: "We are all so touched that our father's many years of hard work are being recognised with a Nobel Prize.

"He devoted his life to his work and his family and he would be truly honoured."

Beutler and Hoffmann, who studied the first stages of the body's immune responses to attack in the 1990s, shared the $1.5m award with Mr Steinman, originally from Montreal, whose discovery of dendritic cells in the 1970s is key to understanding the body's next line of defence against disease.

"This year's Nobel laureates have revolutionised our understanding of the immune system by discovering key principles for its activation," the award panel at Sweden's Karolinska Institute said in a statement in Stockholm.

Medicine, or physiology, is usually the first of the Nobel prizes awarded each year.

Irish Independent

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