Rolf M. Zinkernagel


Rolf M. Zinkernagel

Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.

Rolf M. Zinkernagel
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1996

Born: 6 January 1944, Basel, Switzerland

Affiliation at the time of the award: University of Zurich, Institute of Experimental Immunology, Zurich, Switzerland

Prize motivation: "for their discoveries concerning the specificity of the cell mediated immune defence."

Prize share: 1/2


When the body's cells are attacked by viruses, the immune system begins killing the infected cells. By studying mice, Rolf Zinkernagel and Peter Doherty proved in 1973 how the immune system recognizes virus-ridden cells. A kind of white blood cell, T-cells, kills the virus-ridden cells, but only if they recognize both the foreign substances, viruses, and certain substances from the body's own cells. The discovery has provided an important basis for vaccines and medicines for infectious diseases, but also for inflammatory diseases and cancer.

To cite this section
MLA style: Rolf M. Zinkernagel – Facts. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2021. Sat. 27 Nov 2021. <>

Back to top Back To Top Takes users back to the top of the page

Explore prizes and laureates

Look for popular awards and laureates in different fields, and discover the history of the Nobel Prize.