Turkey’s science minister to visit CERN

Nihat Ergun will pay a visit to Switzerland on October 20-21 upon an invitation of Turkish scientists working in CERN.

Turkey’s science, industry and technology minister will visit the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland, his office said on Tuesday.

Nihat Ergun will pay a visit to Switzerland on October 20-21 upon an invitation of Turkish scientists working in CERN.

Ergun will first visit IBM Research Laboratory and nanotechnology center in Zurich, and discuss possible cooperation in establishing a similar laboratory in Turkey.

Minister Ergun will later proceed to Geneva to visit CERN. He will be briefed by CERN executives, and learn about contributions of Turkish scientists.

In 2009, Turkey applied to become a full member to CERN. Twenty countries are full members of the organization, whereas eight others are observers.

Turkey is the only country which got observer status in 1961. Almost 200 Turkish scientists are working in CERN.

 

AA

18 October 2011 Tuesday

Philips plans to cut 4,500 jobs

Van Houten told reporters the companies were still talking but if negotiations were finalized, it could then take months to close a deal due to regulatory hurdles.
Teamsters Mark A. Owsianiak (L) and Mark Bishop put up a sign at the Philips Electonics booth before the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) at the Las Vegas Convention Center January 3, 2008.(Reuters)
Teamsters Mark A. Owsianiak (L) and Mark Bishop put up a sign at the Philips Electonics booth before the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) at the Las Vegas Convention Center January 3, 2008.(Reuters)

Philips Electronics has all but abandoned hope of selling its TV business by the end of the year, leaving a question mark over how quickly it can divest its loss-making problem child.

“The global TV market has deteriorated, and obviously the sooner we complete this the better, but we first need to finalize the negotiations, and whether we can do that this year or into the first quarter of 2012, there are some uncertainties with that planning,” Chief Executive Frans van Houten told reporters on Monday.

Philips — the world’s biggest lighting maker, a top three hospital equipment maker and Europe’s biggest consumer electronics producer — said negotiations to sell off most of its TV business to Hong-Kong based monitor-maker TPV were intense, constructive and taking longer than expected.

“For the eventuality that a final agreement cannot be reached, Philips will consider its alternative options,” van Houten said in a statement on Monday.

Van Houten told reporters the companies were still talking but if negotiations were finalized, it could then take months to close a deal due to regulatory hurdles.

Both Philips and TPV said on Monday there was no agreed timeline to close the deal.

Van Houten also said it was too early to outline a backup plan for the TV business, which makes up less than 10 percent of group sales and has gone from being a global leader to a drag on the Dutch company.

The unit has notched up almost 1 billion euros in losses since the beginning of 2007, when competition with lower cost Asian rivals began to intensify.

“The TV negotiations are taking longer than expected, and there’s no final agreement, which is a clear negative,” said Rabobank analyst Hans Slob.

“That Philips says the negotiations are ‘intense’ doesn’t sound very good either, and it looks like there is a clear chance they won’t strike a deal,” Slob added.

Other analysts have said management’s tone and language suggest the TV deal is just delayed, and could still happen, but perhaps at a higher cost.

“Certain details and terms of the deal, which were initially agreed upon and which took into account the global TV market, will be under pressure now that the underlying flat screen TV market has weakened significantly,” said Sjoerd Ummels an analyst at ING.

“Clearly what we don’t want is Philips to say they can’t sell the TV business and they intend to restructure it while they look for another buyer, or just close it down,” said a London-based analyst who spoke on condition of anonymity.

On Monday Philips reported falling third-quarter profit due to higher restructuring and raw material costs and sluggish European growth and said it would focus on operational and overhead cuts as part of its 800 million euro cost saving plan.

Philips said it would aim to cut 4,500 jobs as part of the restructuring scheme to boost profit and meet its financial targets. That is about 3.7 percent of its non-TV workforce of just over 120,000, which had already been reduced by a 2009 program to cut 6,000 jobs.

Despite reiterating the firm’s 2013 financial targets of 4-6 percent sales growth, and a margin on earnings before interest, tax and amortization (EBITA) of 10-12 percent, Van Houten said Philips had a long way to go.

“We are not yet satisfied with our current financial performance, given the ongoing economic challenges, especially in Europe, and operational issues and risks. We do not expect to realize a material performance improvement in the near term,” he said in a statement.

The firm reported third-quarter net profit of 76 million euros, down from 524 million euros a year ago on sales of 5.394 billion euros, down from 5.46 billion euros.

Analysts in a Reuters-commissioned poll had expected third-quarter net profit of 53.8 million euros on sales of 5.341 billion euros.

The Dutch firm halved its third-quarter earnings before interest, tax and amortization (EBITA) to 368 million euros, down from 648 million euros a year ago, just beating analyst expectations for 334 million euros.

Higher restructuring and acquisition-related charges as well as higher raw material costs weighed on the firm’s earnings at its entertainment and consumer lighting units.

Philips made a shock 1.3 billion-euro second-quarter net loss on writedowns at its lighting and healthcare units, due to weak consumer demand in Europe and North America, so analysts were not surprised by the third quarter results.

In the past seven months, Philips has issued two profit warnings, slashed its long-term growth targets and been hit by the combination of low-cost Asian rivals, rising raw material costs, sagging consumer confidence, sluggish construction markets and government budget cuts in the healthcare sector.

Philips’s shares, which have tumbled almost 40 percent over the year, were trading up 1.45 percent at 15.08 euros at 1037 GMT.

Philips competes with Samsung and LG Electronics, among others, in consumer electronics, and with General Electric and Siemens in the hospital and lighting markets.

 

Reuters

17 October 2011 Monday

Titanium treasure trove found on the Moon

The discovery was made possibly thanks to the US Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which used its on-board powerful camera and swept the surface of the Moon, scrutinising it in seven different light wavelengths.

A map of the moon composed of superimposed observations in visible and ultraviolet wavelengths has revealed an amazing treasure – hordes of titanium ore, up to 10 times richer than on Earth. This could be the necessary motivation to initiate a mining colony project in the future.

The discovery was made possibly thanks to the US Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which used its on-board powerful camera and swept the surface of the Moon, scrutinising it in seven different light wavelengths.

“Looking up at the Moon, its surface appears painted with shades of gray – at least to the human eye. But with the right instruments, the Moon can appear colorful,” said Robinson, a professor in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “The maria appear reddish in some places and blue in others. Although subtle, these color variations tell us important things about the chemistry and evolution of the lunar surface. They indicate the titanium and iron abundance, as well as the maturity of a lunar soil.”

Titanium is an extremely tough material, but it’s when combined into alloys with other materials like iron or aluminum that it truly shines. It’s applications range from military, to medical, to telecommunications to the ever important aerospace industry. Now, having the study’s results, which were presented Friday Oct. 7 at the joint meeting of the European Planetary Science Congress and the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences in Nantes, France, the world has an economical impulse to jump start its lunar moon base projects.

To reach this discovery, the researchers scanned the lunar surface and compared the brightness in the range of wavelengths from ultraviolet to visible light, picking out areas that are abundant in titanium. They then put together a mosaic using roughly 4,000 images that had been collected by the LRO’s instruments over one month, which they used together with the WAC ratio of the brightness in the ultraviolet to visible light to deduce titanium abundance, backed up by surface samples gathered by Apollo and Luna missions.

“The new map is a valuable tool for lunar exploration planning. Astronauts will want to visit places with both high scientific value and a high potential for resources that can be used to support exploration activities. Areas with high titanium provide both – a pathway to understanding the interior of the Moon and potential mining resources,” said Robinson.

So, it clearly has a double interest margin – on one side there’s the profit for the mining corporations brave enough to invest in such an operation, and on the other there’s the scientific community which has always striven to better understand our natural satellite’s interior.

Cihan

17 October 2011 Monday

Levitating objects at the science festival in Moscow

Focusing on Natural Sciences, the Festival is of light-hearted report compiled by the leading scientists and researchers for the society’s consumption.

The 6th Russian Science Festival took place in Moscow between October 8 and 10, 2011 on the premises of the Moscow State University.

The First Russian Science Festival was held in 2006 in Lomonosov Moscow State University. Since 2006, the annual All-Russia Science Festival draws heed to the state of education and science in Russia, recent developments and the opportunities to improve the society with the help of scientific research and innovations.

This year’s festival once again centered upon the pressing problems of scientific research in Russia such as the wonder of magnetic levitation and magnetic iron dust dancing to “Flight of the Bumblebee”. Featured lectures included the analysis of the Fukushima disaster, a symposium on human brain and its memory functions, and a report on the third Russian geographical expedition to Alaska since the territory had been sold to the U.S. in the 19th century.

Focusing on Natural Sciences, the Festival is of light-hearted report compiled by the leading scientists and researchers for the society’s consumption.

Already the first-ever Festival in 2006 attracted over 20,000 visitors; last year’s festival has drawn over 250,000 in three days, and that was only in Moscow alone!

Free of charge, the festival combined the events of different formats, from lectures through discussions to interactive, hands-on sessions that all serve to raise the profile of scientific research and to acquaint the larger audience with the latest developments in Science in Russia and world-wide.

Thanks to the range of activities, the Science Festival has long been attended by school students, universities students groups, and families, along with academics and amateur researchers.

Some other events include several contests aimed at children and teenagers. A literary contest celebrates the 300th anniversary of birth of Mikhail Lomonosov, the leading figure in Russian science. A drawing contest marks the 50th anniversary of the flight to Space and the International Chemistry Year celebrated in 2011.

Two more competitions attract the attention of school graduates and students: the former students are invited to submit their research projects, while students, post grads and young scientists have a chance to promote their projects and ideas to businesses and investors.

Cihan

10 October 2011 Monday

NASA-backed space taxi to fly in test next summer

The test flight was added after privately held Sierra Nevada got a $25.6-million boost to its existing $80 million contract with NASA.

A seven-seat space taxi backed by NASA to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station will make a high-altitude test flight next summer, officials said on Tuesday.

Sierra Nevada Corp’s “Dream Chaser” space plane, which resembles a miniature space shuttle, is one of four space taxis being developed by private industry with backing from the U.S. government.

For the unmanned test flight, it will be carried into the skies by WhiteKnightTwo, the carrier aircraft for the commercial suborbital passenger ship SpaceShipTwo, backed by Virgin Galactic, a U.S. company owned by Richard Branson’s London-based Virgin Group.

The test flight was added after privately held Sierra Nevada got a $25.6-million boost to its existing $80 million contract with NASA.

The test flight will take place from either Edwards Air Force Base in California’s Mojave Desert, or from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, Ed Mango, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said at a community briefing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

With the retirement of the space shuttles this summer, NASA is now dependent on Russia to fly astronauts to the space station, at a cost of more than $50 million per person.

The agency hopes to turn over crew transportation services to one or more commercial firms before the end of 2016, Mango said.

In addition to Sierra Nevada, NASA is funding spaceship development work at Boeing Co, Space Exploration Technologies, and Blue Origin, a start-up firm owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

“Having only one way to get crew to the station is a limitation,” NASA astronaut Mike Fossum, who is currently living aboard the outpost, said during an in-flight interview last week.

The station, a $100 billion project of 16 nations, was finished this year after more than a decade of construction 225 miles (350 km) above the planet. The outpost, which is about the size of a five-bedroom house, supports a variety of scientific research and technology demonstrations.

Along with helping to develop commercial space taxis, NASA is working on a heavy-lift rocket and capsule to fly astronauts and cargo to asteroids, the moon, Mars and other destinations beyond the space station’s orbit.

Drawing heavily on equipment originally built for predecessor programs, including the space shuttle and the canceled Constellation moon exploration initiative, the new rocket, called the Space Launch System or SLS, is scheduled to debut in 2017.

That unmanned test flight would be followed in 2021 by a trial run with astronauts, said Kennedy Space Center director Bob Cabana.

Reuters

12 October 2011 Wednesday

Climate change negotiators see no major Durban deal

Global climate change negotiators on Friday concluded their last round of discussions before next month’s U.N. convention in Durban, South Africa with faint hope of extending the Kyoto Protocol beyond next year.

Vapour pours from a steel mill chimney in the industrial town of Port Kembla, about 80 km (50 miles) south of Sydney July 7.(Reuters)
Vapour pours from a steel mill chimney in the industrial town of Port Kembla, about 80 km (50 miles) south of Sydney July 7.(Reuters)

But while negotiators see no chance for a sweeping deal to control greenhouse gas emissions, they say that the talks could yet lay the groundwork for a binding climate deal that could include the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters, China and the United States.

“Governments are really committed to starting a process toward that (new pact) and that includes the United States and China,” Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC, told Reuters on Friday.

“How they will get there, with what speed they will be able to get there, that still remains to be seen,” she said.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol, a global pact to curb greenhouse gasses, ends next year.

Kyoto was meant to stem climate change but obliged only developed nations to reduce emissions. The United States never signed the deal and developing nations have since become major emitters.

Nations including Russia, Canada and Japan have said they will not sign on for another commitment period when the current one expires.

The European Union is the only major emitter that has expressed willingness to continue committed to Kyoto, but EU negotiators say there is no point in signing a global agreement that would only cover around 15 percent of emissions.

“To really fight global warming, we need 100 percent of emissions being covered,” Tomasz Chruszczow, a European Union negotiator, told a press conference on Friday.

The United States is still unlikely to sign any agreement and major emerging nations want assurance a UNFCCC agreement on green finance is in place before committing themselves to a binding agreement, negotiators said.

Seven days of talks in Panama were marked by assertions by developing nations that industrialized countries were blocking progress on the Green Climate Fund, envisioned as $100 billion in annual finance for poor countries to address climate change.

A draft text on long-term finance was released on Friday that climate discussion experts said will guide developed nations toward identifying capital for the empty fund in Durban.

“It’s really encouraging that we got this text in Panama,” said Tim Gore, a climate change adviser with aid group Oxfam who credited the European Union with moving the issue forward.

Before Durban, a UNFCCC committee will hold a final discussion on the fund’s framework while the G20 is expected to discuss green finance plans at its next meeting.

But there is little expectation that a binding deal on emissions will come from Durban, many negotiators and veteran climate talk observers said.

Backers of a post-Kyoto emissions pact including Australia and Norway — countries that recently presented a new proposal to rescue climate talks — seek a binding agreement by 2015.

Reuters

 

 

08 October 2011 Saturday

Scientists use cloning to make human stem cells

For the first time US scientists have used a cloning technique to get tailor-made embryonic stem cells to grow in unfertilised human egg cells – a landmark finding and a potential new flashpoint for opponents of stem cell research.

 

The researchers were trying to prove it is possible to use a cloning technology called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) to make embryonic stem cells that match a patient’s DNA.

The achievement, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, is significant because such patient-specific cells potentially can be transplanted to replace damaged cells in people with diabetes and other diseases without rejection by the immune system.

This technique could ignite new controversy because some opponents consider it to be cloning, which they fiercely oppose.

“This paper will be seen as significant both by those who are trying to use SCNT to produce human patient-specific embryonic stem cell lines and by those who oppose human ‘cloning’ experiments,” said Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, a division head at Britain’s National Institute for Medical Research.

Stem cells are the body’s master cells, the source material for all other cells.

Proponents of embryonic stem cells say they could transform medicine, providing treatments for blindness, juvenile diabetes or severe injuries.

Normally, SCNT involves removing genetic material from the nucleus of the host egg cell and replacing it with the nucleus from adult cells, the technique used to clone animals such as Dolly the sheep in 1996.

But scientists so far have failed to get these cells to grow and divide beyond a very early stage in humans and non-human primates.

Scientists in this study, led by Dieter Egli and Scott Noggle at The New York Stem Cell Foundation Laboratory in New York, kept the genetic material from the host egg and simply added the nucleus from the adult cells.

“Rather surprisingly – as this means that they are creating an embryo with too many copies of each chromosome – these constructs developed well and efficiently to the blastocyst stage (the stage just before implantation, where the embryo is about 80 to 100 cells),” Professor Lovell-Badge said in a statement.

She said the result falls short because the scientists did not obtain useful cell lines, but they may help explain why other techniques have failed.

“This study shows that the conventional approach to somatic cell nuclear transfer is inefficient in humans,” said Professor Mary Herbert of Newcastle University and Newcastle Fertility Centre.

“While this approach does not in itself provide a solution, it takes us a step closer to understanding where the problems lie.”

She said the latest study offers a new approach that may allow scientists to compare different techniques of creating these important and powerful cells.

Controversial research

Embryonic stem cells are made from embryos that are just a few days old, but have been a point of controversy for some religious conservatives, who believe the destruction of any human embryo is wrong.

Scientists typically harvest embryonic stem cells from embryos left over at fertility clinics, but the eggs in this study came from women who were paid around $8,000, roughly the same rate women are paid for egg donations for in-vitro fertilization.

Scientists have debated whether researchers should pay women for eggs used in stem cell research for fear the payments would act as an inducement to women to donate their eggs, a procedure that can take weeks, cause discomfort, and has risk.

The goal of these studies is to work out the best ways to create cells that are “pluripotent” – meaning they can be used to form any other kind of cell in the body.

Embryonic stem cells have this capability, but these cells cannot be tailored to match a specific patient’s DNA, and treatments made from these cells might face rejection from the body, much like transplanted organs.

‘Personalised stem cells’

In 2006, scientists discovered a new way creating embryonic-like stem cells in the lab using patients’ own skin cells and a potent mix of genes or “factors” that can turn back the clock on the adult cells, restoring them to a pluripotent state.

“The goal is to create customised or personalised stem cells that match a particular patient,” said Dr George Daley of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and Harvard Medical School.

But recently, several groups of scientists, including Dr Daley’s lab, have found that these iPS cells are not exactly the same as embryonic stem cells.

“We are just beginning to learn about this kind of iPS cell. It turns out they harbor a number of genetic problems,” Dr Daley said.

He said the latest study offers a new approach that may allow scientists to compare different techniques of creating these important and powerful cells.

The study was backed solely by private funding and followed ethical guidelines adopted by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the International Society for Stem Cell Research.

The research was done in the New York Stem Cell Foundation Laboratory in New York in collaboration with doctors and researchers at Columbia University Medical Centre, whose institutional review board and stem cell committees reviewed and approved the study protocols.

 

 

 

 

 

 

06 October 2011, Thursday / REUTERS, CHICAGO

Samsung seeking to block sale of new iPhone 4S

Samsung said it will file court injunctions in France and Italy seeking to block the sale of Apple’s latest iPhone amid an intensifying patent fight between the smartphone giants.

Apple's Senior Vice President of Worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller speaks about the iPhone 4S at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California. AFP photo
Apple's Senior Vice President of Worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller speaks about the iPhone 4S at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California. AFP photo

Samsung plans to file preliminary injunctions in Paris and Milan asking that courts block Apple’s iPhone 4S from being sold in France and Italy, alleging patent infringement of wireless telecommunications technology, the company said Wednesday.

“Apple has continued to flagrantly violate our intellectual property rights and free ride on our technology, and we will steadfastly protect our intellectual property,” Samsung said in a statement.

The South Korean company did not say when the French and Italian filings would take place, but also said it plans similar moves in other countries “after further review.” The announcement comes one day after Apple Inc. unveiled the iPhone 4S in the United States.

Seoul-based Apple spokesman Steve Park, speaking by phone from Japan, declined to comment on Samsung’s announcement.

The companies have been at odds since April when Apple took legal actions claiming Samsung’s Galaxy line of smartphones and tablet computers copy the iPhone and iPad. Samsung has responded by taking Apple to court over what it alleges are violations of its patents covering wireless communications.

Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung Electronics Co. ranks No. 2 in the world in smartphone sales behind Apple, which has headquarters in Cupertino, California.

Samsung said the technology it claims Apple infringes “is essential to the reliable functioning of telecom networks and devices” and that it sees the alleged violations as “too severe and that (the) iPhone 4S should be barred from sales.” Apple has won sales injunctions against Samsung products in the Netherlands and Germany and is seeking one in Australia. Samsung has asked a court in the Netherlands to stop Apple from selling iPhones and iPad tablets in that country.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011
SEOUL – Associated Press

Turkish Experts to help Pak universities to establish technology parks

ISLAMABAD, (SANA): The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has invited experts from the Middle East Technical University (METU) Technology Park, Ankara to facilitate the Pakistani universities in preparing feasibility for establishing Technology Parks.  

Before their interaction with the universities and industry, Mr. Tolga Ozbolat, Manager METU Technology Park and Mr. Ufuk Batum, Deputy Manager held a meeting with Dr. Sohail Naqvi, Executive Director, HEC at Commission Secretariat on Monday.

Briefing the media, Dr. Naqvi said that the experts will have one-to-one meetings with universities and industry, besides holding a one-day workshop on “Technology Parks: Challenges and Opportunities” for the stakeholders on Tuesday.

He said that the main objective of this exercise is to help universities learn about Technology Parks in general and important pre-requisites in particular. “The experts will share METU experience on Technology Parks with our universities and will assess potential for technology parks in Pakistan as well as possible applications, including non-traditional applications, suitable for the Pakistani environment.”

The experts will get an overview and assessment of the prevailing conditions, including status of IT software development, telecommunication industry, industrial development and service industries, including financial institutions, in Pakistan. They will also provide awareness for legislative requirement and establishment of Technology Parks Financial Fund

While explaining the concept of Technology Park, he said that Technology Park is an organization managed by specialized professionals, with the aim to increase wealth of its community/ economy by promoting culture of innovation and competitiveness of its associated business and knowledge based institutions.

“To achieve these goals, Technology Park stimulates and manages the flow of knowledge and technology amongst universities, R&D institutions, companies and markets. It facilitates creation and growth of innovation-based companies through incubation and spin-off processes and provides other value-added services together with high quality space and facilities.”

He revealed that the METU Technology Park generated a revenue of $ 150 million annually from contract research as it is the first and oldest such Park in Turkey. He highlighted the fact that the world over, universities were working alongside the industry and hence registering spectacular growth.

He said that the Office of Research, Innovation and Commercialization (ORIC), established by HEC at universities, is aimed to develop, expand, enhance and manage the university’s research programmes and to link research activities directly to the educational, social and economic priorities of the university and its broader community. “We want universities to own their research. For this purpose, university staff is being trained to understand the concept”.

Dr. Naqvi said that Turkey is leading the Islamic world as far as higher education is concerned. “Since Turkey is 20 years ahead in the domain, we may learn a lot from their experience and replicate the same in our higher education institutions.

When asked about the cost and timeline of the projects, he said, “We may start with something very modest and then gradually build it to international level. As far as funding is concerned, these projects will not rely solely on the Government resources. Pakistani expatriates, especially METU alumni, are keen to support the initiative.”

Later in the day, the Turkish experts visited the Quaid-e-Azam University and National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST).

 

 

South Asian News Agency (SANA) ⋅ October 4, 2011

Scientist wins Nobel for medicine days after death

A cell biologist was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday for his discoveries about the immune system but hours later his university said that he had been dead for three days.

In this April 24, 2009 photo, Dr. Ralph Steinman of Rockefeller University speaks during a news conference in Albany, N.Y. (Photo: AP)
In this April 24, 2009 photo, Dr. Ralph Steinman of Rockefeller University speaks during a news conference in Albany, N.Y. (Photo: AP)

The Nobel committee had been unaware of Canadian-born Ralph Steinman’s death and it was unclear whether the prize would be rescinded because Nobel statutes don’t allow posthumous awards.

Steinman, 68, who shared the 10 million kronor ($1.5 million) prize with American Bruce Beutler and French scientist Jules Hoffmann, died on Sept. 30 of pancreatic cancer, according to Rockefeller University. It said Steinman’s life had been extended with immunotherapy based on the discovery for which he won the Nobel Prize.

In the 1970s, Steinman found dendritic cells that help regulate adaptive immunity, an immune system response that purges invading microorganisms from the body.

Beutler and Hoffmann were cited for their discoveries in the 1990s of receptor proteins that can recognize bacteria and other microorganisms as they enter the body, and activate the first line of defense in the immune system, known as innate immunity.

“I am very touched. I’m thinking of all the people who worked with me, who gave everything,” Hoffmann said by telephone to a news conference in Paris. “I wasn’t sure this domain merited a Nobel.”

The trio’s discoveries have enabled the development of improved vaccines against infectious diseases. In the long term they could also yield better treatments of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and chronic inflammatory diseases, prize committee members said.

Since 1974, the Nobel statutes don’t allow posthumous awards unless a laureate dies after the announcement but before the Dec. 10 award ceremony. That happened in 1996 when economics winner William Vickrey died a few days after the announcement.

Nobel officials said they believed it was the first time that a laureate had died before the announcement without the committee’s knowledge.

“I think you can safely say that this hasn’t happened before,” Nobel Foundation spokeswoman Annika Pontikis told the AP.

Before the statues were changed in 1974 two Nobel Prizes were given posthumously. In 1961 U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize less than a month after he died in a plane crash during a peace mission to Congo. Swedish poet Erik Axel Karlfeldt won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1931, although he had died in March the same year.

Nobel committee member Goran Hansson said the medicine committee didn’t know Steinman was dead when it chose him as a winner and was looking through its regulations.

“It is incredibly sad news,” Hansson said. “We can only regret that he didn’t have the chance to receive the news he had won the Nobel Prize. Our thoughts are now with his family.”

The discoveries have helped scientists understand why the immune system sometimes attacks its own tissues, paving the way for new ways to fight inflammatory diseases.

“They have made possible the development of new methods for preventing and treating disease, for instance with improved vaccines against infections and in attempts to stimulate the immune system to attack tumors,” the committee said.

No vaccines are on the market yet, but Hansson told The Associated Press that vaccines against hepatitis are in the pipeline.

“Large clinical trials are being done today,” he said.

Beutler, 53, is professor of genetics and immunology at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, California. Hoffmann, 70, headed a research laboratory in Strasbourg, France, between 1974 and 2009 and served as president of the French National Academy of Sciences between 2007-2008.

Steinman had been affiliated with Rockefeller University in New York since 1970, and headed its Center for Immunology and Immune Diseases.

“We are all so touched that our father’s many years of hard work are being recognized with a Nobel Prize,” Steinman’s daughter, Alexis Steinman, said in the Rockefeller University statement. “He devoted his life to his work and his family, and he would be truly honored.”

Hoffmann’s discovery came in 1996 during research on how fruit flies fight infections. Two years later, Beutler’s research on mice showed that fruit flies and mammals activate innate immunity in similar ways when attacked by germs.

Steinman’s discovery dates back to 1973, when he found a new cell type, the dendritic cell, which has a unique capacity to activate so-called T-cells. Those cells have a key role in adaptive immunity, when antibodies and killer cells fight infections. They also develop a memory that helps the immune system mobilize its defenses next time it comes under a similar attack.

The medicine award kicked off a week of Nobel Prize announcements, and will be followed by the physics prize on Tuesday, chemistry on Wednesday, literature on Thursday and the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. The winners of the economics award will be announced on Oct. 10.

The coveted prizes were established by wealthy Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel – the inventor of dynamite – except for the economics award, which was created by Sweden’s central bank in 1968 in Nobel’s memory. The prizes are always handed out on Dec. 10, on the anniversary of Nobel’s death in 1896.

Last year’s medicine award went to British professor Robert Edwards for fertility research that led to the first test tube baby.

 

 

03 October 2011, Monday / REUTERS, STOCKHOLM