2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine announced

Well, that was exciting, but perhaps not for the correct reasons. The live webfeed for the Medicine Prize announcement was beset with gremlins, and just before the announcement the Wikipedia page of Japanese stem cell scientist Shinya Yamanaka said that he had been awarded the prize (with no citation).

David Bradley at Sciencebase, who kindly sent me the screen shot below of the erroneous Wikipedia page was first out of the blocks with the pre-announcement news.

But eventually the news emerged that this year’s prize is shared: one half jointly to Bruce A. Beutler and Jules A. Hoffmann for their discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity and the other half to Ralph M. Steinman for his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in adaptive immunity. Scientists have speculated about Toll-like receptors and dendritic cells as a potential prize for several years, and as Daniel Cressey says on the Nature News blog, Hoffmann and Beutler shared this year’s Shaw prize for Life Science and Medicine with Ruslan Medzhitov for uncovering the mechanisms behind innate immunity. Let’s see if news stories ask questions about the difference in personnel between the two prizes.

I hope to build a timeline of the achievements behind the prize, and capture a flavour of the reaction on social media channels. I’ll post these as soon as I can, but bear with me… this is immunology after all!

By my estimation this is the first immunology prize since Peter Doherty and Rolf Zinkernagel in 1996 for their work on cell-mediated immunity — unless you include Stanley Prusiner’s 1997 prize on prions — but do correct me if I am wrong.


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