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Despite death, Ralf Steinman will receive Nobel Prize
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Despite death, Ralf Steinman will receive Nobel Prize

14.03.2012 From our online archive
The decision on whether Ralf Steinman should receive the Nobel Prize in medicine for his discovery of the dendritic cell despite sudden death on Friday 30 September, has now been made.

It was announced yesterday that Luxembourg-born Jules Hoffman, together with Bruce Beutler were to share their Nobel Prize in medicine with Ralf Steinman. However Steinman died unexpectedly on Friday, leaving it at first, unclear whether or not he was eligible to be given the award.

The decision on whether Ralf Steinman should receive the Nobel Prize in medicine for his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in adaptive immunity, or if his sudden death on Friday 30 September would lead to an automatic disqualification, has now been made.

The Nobel Committee confirms that Ralf Steinman will be honoured, even though the statutes of the Nobel Foundation stipulate that achievements cannot be rewarded if the laureate is no longer alive. However, an individual can be given the award if presumed to be alive at the moment the decision is made, which was the case with Ralf Steinman. According to the Nobel Foundation, “the decision to honour Ralf Steinman was made in good faith”, i.e. they were unaware of his death of the time of pronouncement.

Consequently, Lars Heikensten, Executive Director of the Foundation, specified that although the Nobel Prize can still not, in principle, be awarded post-mortem, this particular case was justified given the circumstances. However, information on whether all members of the committee were in agreement on this peculiar interpretation has not been disclosed.