Nobel winner died days before award

2011-10-03 16:22

Washington - Canadian cell biologist Ralph Steinman, 68, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine on Monday for his pioneering work on the immune system, died of pancreatic cancer last week, his employer said.

"Steinman passed away on September 30," Rockefeller University said in a statement. "He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer four years ago, and his life was extended using a dendritic-cell based immunotherapy of his own design."

Steinman shared the award with Bruce Beutler of the United States and Luxembourg-born Jules Hoffmann, who is a naturalised French citizen.

The trio 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.

It was not immediately clear if the Nobel committee was aware of Steinman's passing. The Nobel Prize is typically not awarded posthumously.

"The Rockefeller University is delighted that the Nobel Foundation has recognized Ralph Steinman for his seminal discoveries concerning the body’s immune responses," said university president Marc Tessier-Lavigne.

"But the news is bittersweet, as we also learned this morning from Ralph’s family that he passed a few days ago after a long battle with cancer. Our thoughts are with Ralph's wife, children and family."