The Nobel Prize for Medicine of Physiology
Rolf Zinkernagel shares the 1996 Nobel Prize in Medicine with his ANU colleague Peter Doherty for their discoveries concerning the specificity of the cell mediated immune defence.
They carried out revolutionary work in immunology together at the John Curtin School of Medical Research.
Whilst studying the response of mice to viruses, they found that white blood cells (lymphocytes) must recognize both the virus and certain self molecules - the so-called major histocompatibility antigens - to kill the virus-infected cells. This principle of simultaneous recognition of both self and foreign molecules has laid a foundation for the further understanding of the specificity of the cellular immune system.
Zinkernagel is currently Professor of Experimental Immunology at the University of Zurich.