The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences has awarded the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Medicine to Ralph M. Steinman “for his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in the immune response.”
Awarded since 1989 to researchers and others in the medical field, the prize consists of a cash gift of $150,000 and a trophy featuring the Greek god of medicine, Aesculapius, designed and produced by Simons Jewelers of The Hague.
Steinman, who is Henry G. Kunkel Professor and senior physician at The Rockefeller University Hospital, joined Rockefeller in 1970 as a postdoctoral researcher in Zanvil A. Cohn’s laboratory. In 1973, Steinman discovered the dendritic cell, a previously unknown type of white blood cell that acts as the “sentinel” of the immune system, marshaling T cells to fight harmful pathogens and programming other immune cells to recognize safe, endogenous antigens and thus avoid autoimmunity. Steinman’s discovery opened an entirely new field of study in immunology and led to numerous investigations into the preventive and therapeutic potential of dendritic cells in conditions including allergies, autoimmune disorders and cancer, among many others.
“My mentor, Zan Cohn, together with many young people who have trained with us, working in concert with the superb community here at Rockefeller, have been responsible for this and other prestigious awards,” says Steinman.
In addition to the Heineken Prize, Steinman has received the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research, the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research, the New York City Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Science and Technology and the Gairdner Foundation International Award. Steinman directs the university’s Christopher H. Browne Center for Immunology and Immune Diseases.
The Heineken Prizes are international prizes awarded biennially to five internationally renowned scientists and one highly talented Dutch visual artist for their contributions to science, Dutch art and society. The scientific Heineken Prizes recognize and reward unique achievement in the fields of biochemistry and biophysics, medicine, environmental sciences, history and cognitive science.