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Ralph Steinman awarded 2009 Albany Medical Center Prize

Ralph M. Steinman, head of Rockefeller University’s Laboratory of Cellular Physiology and Immunology, was named a recipient of this year’s Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research, at $500,000 the largest award in medicine or science in the United States. Steinman, recognized for his pathbreaking discoveries about the innate immune system, shares the prize with Charles A. Dinarello of the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Bruce Beutler of The Scripps Research Institute. The recipients will be honored at a news conference and luncheon at the Albany Medical Center today.

In 1973, Steinman, who is Henry G. Kunkel Professor at Rockefeller and senior physician at The Rockefeller University Hospital, 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. Steinman, who joined Rockefeller in 1970, is the recipient of numerous other prestigious awards, including 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 Albany Medical Center Prize was established in 2000 by the late Morris “Marty” Silverman to honor scientists whose work has translated from the bench to the bedside and resulted in better outcomes for patients. A $50 million gift from the Marty and Dorothy Silverman Foundation provides for the prize to be awarded annually for 100 years. Previous recipients of the award include Joseph L. Goldstein, a trustee of Rockefeller University, and Arnold J. Levine, president of the university from 1998 to 2002.

A leading not-for-profit health care institution, the Albany Medical Center includes one of New York’s largest teaching hospitals, the Albany Medical Center Hospital, one of the nation’s oldest medical schools, Albany Medical College, and one of Albany’s most active fundraising organizations, the Albany Medical Center Foundation.

Albany Medical Center: Immune system pioneers share America’s largest prize in medicine