Three scientists won the Nobel Medicine Prize today for work on the immune system, but in a surprising twist the jury learned that one of the winners of the award that cannot be given posthumously had died just days before.
The winners were Bruce Beutler of the United States, Luxembourg-born Jules Hoffmann, who is a naturalised French citizen, and Ralph Steinman of Canada, who it was discovered Monday had died on September 30.
“This year’s Nobel laureates have revolutionised our understanding of the immune system by discovering key principles for its activation,” the jury said in a statement.
The three were lauded for their work on the body’s complex defence system in which signalling molecules unleash antibodies and killer cells to respond to invading microbes.
Understanding this throws open the door to new drugs and also tackling immune disorders, such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease, in which the body mysteriously attacks itself.
“Their work has opened up new avenues for the development of prevention and therapy against infections, cancer and inflammatory diseases,” the jury said.