For their work in understanding the immune system, Bruce Beutler, Jules Hoffmann, and Ralph Steinman are the winners of this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, announced the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institutet. Beutler and Hoffmann are being recognized for their work on the innate immune system while Steinman is being honored for his findings in adaptive immunity. "The discoveries of the three Nobel Laureates have revealed how the innate and adaptive phases of the immune response are activated and thereby provided novel insights into disease mechanisms. Their work has opened up new avenues for the development of prevention and therapy against infections, cancer, and inflammatory diseases," says a press release from the Nobel committee.
However, Steinman, the Associated Press points out, died September 30 at the age of 68, and the Nobel committee cannot issue posthumous awards. The committee did not know Steinman had died when it made its decision. "It is incredibly sad news," Goran Hansson, a Nobel committee member tells the AP. "We can only regret that he didn't have the chance to receive the news he had won the Nobel Prize. Our thoughts are now with his family."
The Nobel Prize Twitter feed notes that an update will be made shortly.
UPDATE: A press release from the Nobel Foundation says that Ralph Steinman will remain a Nobel laureate. "The decision to award the Nobel Prize to Ralph Steinman was made in good faith, based on the assumption that the Nobel Laureate was alive," the statement says.