The Nobel prize for medicine was just awarded on Monday to three immunologists whose discoveries of the immune system have helped pave the way for novel therapeutic strategies for preventing and treating infection, inflammatory diseases and cancer.
Bruce Beutler, MD (Scripps Research Institute, California), and Jules Hoffman, PhD (National Center for Scientific Research, France), share half of the 3 million dollar prize for their work on Toll-like receptors (TLRs). These molecules are part of the innate immune systems, and play a key role in infection and chronic inflammatory diseases. Dr. Ralph Steinman, MD (Rockefeller University, New York) shares the other half of the prize for his ground-breaking research on dendritic cells, which are critical in activating T cells and protecting the body from infection. Dr. Steinman was born in Montreal and earned his undergraduate degree at McGill, before moving on to Harvard to study medicine. He passed away four days ago from prostate cancer, and it is thought that he may have prolonged his own life with an immunotherapy based on his original research.