(NEW YORK) -- Rockefeller University's Ralph M. Steinman was one of three scientists to be awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine on Monday, but unfortunately, he won't be able to bask in his accomplishment. That's because he's dead.
According to the university, the cell biologist passed away on Sept. 30 -- just three days before the Nobel committee's announcement -- after a four-year battle with Pancreatic cancer. He was 68.
Steinman received the honor "for his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in adaptive immunity." He shares the award with scientists Bruce A. Beutler and Jules A. Hoffmann "for their discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity."
Steinman's work with the immune system's cells opened the door to new treatments for infectious diseases and cancer. In fact, Rockefeller University says he managed to extend his own life using a dendritic-cell based immunotherapy he designed.
“Ralph’s research has laid the foundation for numerous discoveries in the critically important field of immunology, and it has led to innovative new approaches in how we treat cancer, infectious diseases and disorders of the immune system,” Rockefeller University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Ph.D, said in a statement Monday.
“The Rockefeller University is delighted that the Nobel Foundation has recognized Ralph Steinman for his seminal discoveries concerning the body’s immune responses,” Tessier-Lavigne went on to say. “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.”
The Nobel Prize is not awarded posthumously, so the Nobel committee is reportedly deciding if the honor -- and its corresponding cash award -- will be given to somebody else.
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