Peter C. Doherty, PhD, AC, FAA, FAS
Professor of Biomedical Research and Chair of the Immunology Department, St Jude Children's Research Hospital, Tennessee; Laureate Professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Melbourne
Professor Doherty was awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, together with Rolf Zinkernagel, for the discovery of how the immune system recognizes virus-infected cells. Their discovery has, in its turn, laid a foundation for an understanding of general mechanisms used by the cellular immune system to recognize both foreign micro-organisms and self molecules. This discovery is therefore highly relevant to clinical medicine. It relates both to efforts to strengthen the immune response against invading micro-organisms and certain forms of cancer, and to efforts to diminish the effects of autoimmune reactions in inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatic conditions, multiple sclerosis and diabetes.
The two Nobel Laureates carried out the research for which they have now been awarded the Prize in 1973-75 at the John Curtin School of Medical Research in Canberra, Australia, where Peter Doherty already held his position and to which Rolf Zinkernagel came from Switzerland as a research fellow. During their studies of 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—in order to kill the virus-infected cells. This principle of simultaneous recognition of both self and foreign molecules has since then constituted a foundation for the further understanding of the specificity of the cellular immune system.
In addition to winning a Nobel Prize, Dr. Doherty is an active member of the international scientific community. He is the President of the Executive of the International Union for Immunological Societies and has received numerous awards and honorary degrees.