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Ralph Steinman

(1943-2011)


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Ralph Marvin Steinman (January 14, 1943 - September 30, 2011) was a Jewish Canadian immunologist and cell biologist at Rockefeller University in New York and is best known for his posthumous awarding of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology of Medicine.

Steinman was born in Montreal, Canada to a Jewish family and received his Bachelor of Science degree form McGill University. In 1968, he earned his M.D. (magna cum laude) from Harvard Medical School and completed his residency at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

On October 3, 2011, the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine announced that Steinman had received half of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, for "his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in adaptive immunity". The other half went to Bruce Beutler and Jules A. Hoffmann, for "their discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity." Dr. Steinman's research, in layman's terms, was centered on finding a vaccine to protect against cancer and other such malignant tumors in humans. Steinman himself suffered from one of the more aggressive forms of cancer - pancreatic cancer. Three days before the Nobel Prize announcement, Dr. Steinman succumbed to the cancer. He died on September 30, 2011.

Though the Nobel Prize rules stipulate that the award shall not be awarded to anyone posthumously, the selection committee later decided that as the decision to award the prize "was made in good faith," it would thus remain unchanged and would still be granted to Steinman.

Dr. Steinman had received numerous other awards and recognitions for his life-long work on dendritic cells, such as the Albert Lasker Award For Basic Medical Research (2007), the Gairdner Foundation International Award (2003), and the Cancer Research Institute William B. Coley Award (1998). In addition, he was made a member of Institute of Medicine (U.S.A.; elected 2002) and the National Academy of Sciences (U.S.A.; elected 2001).

Steinman is survived by his wife, Claudia, and their three daughters: Adam, Alexis and Lesley.


Sources: New York Times; Rockefeller University; Wikipedia, Photo Credit: Rockefeller University

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