There was a tragic irony Monday in the awarding of the annual Nobel Prize in medicine.
The winner was a researcher who had done groundbreaking work on the immune system. That in itself might not seem so remarkable. But the tragedy is that the winner, cell biologist Ralph Steinman of Canada, died just three days before the announcement of the award in Sweden.
Ironically, he had engaged in research in the attempt to extend not only the lives of others but his own life as well.
And in fact, the work he did helped to lengthen his life.
"He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer four years ago, and his life was extended using a dendritic-cell-based immunotherapy of his own design," according to Rockefeller University in New York. Steinman shared the award with American scientist Bruce Beutler and French scientist Jules Hoffmann.
The Nobel committee said it was unaware when it decided to give the award to Steinman that he had already died.
Steinman's death prior to his receiving the award created a bit of controversy, because the award is supposed to go only to living scientists. But the Nobel Foundation appropriately said the award, and the $1.5 million that goes with it, would stand.
We salute all three of the honorees, and pray that their fine work will enhance efforts to overcome many dreaded diseases.