Jules A. Hoffmann’s speech at the Nobel Banquet, 10 December 2011.
Your Royal Highnesses,
On behalf of the awardees of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, I first wish to express our deeply felt appreciation of the exceptional honor which is bestowed on us today.
We are delighted that the Nobel Committee chose to highlight this year the field of immunity in its cellular, molecular, genetic, functional and phylogenetic contours, from insects to mammals. Although the awards recognize our personal contributions, we wish to stress that a large and excellent scientific community has contributed to the significant advances made over the last decades in this field and we address our warm appreciation tonight to all our colleagues, associates and students worldwide.
It is well understood today that the spectacular increase of human life expectancy, which started in the second half of the 19th century, is to a very large extent the result of better protection against microbial and parasitic infections: better hygiene, vaccination, and antibiotics are credited for this remarkable progress. Nevertheless, in the sphere of antimicrobial host defenses, we unfortunately live in an environment where infectious agents can rapidly evolve and pose a constant threat to the well-being of humankind. This situation requires that we remain ever vigilant and collectively continue our efforts toward a better understanding of:
– how our bodies sense invading microorganisms,
– how we activate the appropriate counter-measures and
– how we can ourselves adapt to strategies by which the invaders try to elude our defenses.
We hope that the studies highlighted today, will contribute to the development of new ways to protect humans against infection, now and in the future.
We are deeply indebted to our co-workers, without whose enthusiastic participation our studies would not have come to fruition. We are also indebted to those who, in our Universities and Research Agencies, have generously funded our studies and given us the opportunities to embark on difficult, high-risk projects without guarantees of success. Finally, we acknowledge with deep respect the strong influence of exceptional mentors. We also recognize with great emotion the warmth and strength provided to us by our families over many years.
I wish to end this address with a special thought to our friend, colleague and co-laureate Ralph Steinman, whom we all miss to-night with great sadness – his place in the firmament of Science is for ever assured which gives some solace to family and friends.
Thank you for your kind attention.