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Peter C. Doherty, Ph.D., and Rolf M. Zinkernagel, M.D., immunologists whose experiments revolutionized the field by explaining the mechanism of T-cell recognition in cell-mediated immunity, have won the 1996 Nobel Prize for Medicine. Dr. Doherty is chairman of the immunology department at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis and Dr. Zinkernagel is professor and director of the Institute of Experimental Immunology at the University of Zurich, Switzerland.
Drs. Doherty and Zinkernagel discovered T cells simultaneously recognize MHC self-protein and a foreign antigen on the surface of virally infected cells. Their discovery of MHC Restriction of T-Cell Recognition opened the door to an understanding of the immune system that has impacted autoimmune disease research, vaccine design, organ transplantation and the understanding of immune surveillance.
Drs. Doherty and Zinkernagel began working together in 1973 at the Australian National University in Canberra. Dr. Doherty joined St. Jude Hospital in 1988.
In September 1995, Drs. Doherty and Zinkernagel received the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award for their work. That award frequently foreshadows the Nobel Prize. Dr. Doherty, also a professor of pediatrics and pathology at the University of Tennessee, Memphis, holds St. Jude Hospital's Michael F. Tamer Endowed Chair for Immunology Biomedical Research. Dr. Doherty is now focusing on the analysis of T cell memory and the ways that T cells control viruses that can cause tumors.
Presentation of the Nobel Prize will be made in December in Stockholm.