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Fellows Directory

Rolf Zinkernagel

Professor Rolf Zinkernagel ForMemRS

Foreign Member

Elected: 1998


Rolf Zinkernagel discovered how the immune system distinguishes virus-infected cells from normal cells. His Nobel Prize-winning research centred on white blood cells — the killer T cells that destroy infected cells. He discovered that, in order to perform their job, T cells must recognise both self and foreign molecules on a cell. This research led to a new understanding of immunity.

Rolf’s work has inspired immunologists the world over and paved the way for decades of research into immune responses and the development of vaccines. His discovery contributed to a greater understanding of healthy immune systems and those compromised by autoimmune diseases.

He is a member of a number of prestigious councils and academies, including the Cancer Research Institute Scientific Advisory Council. He has received many notable awards, including the 1996 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, together with Peter Doherty. In 1999, he received Australia’s highest civilian honour for his scientific work — an honorary Companion of the Order of Australia.


  • Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine

    No citation available for this award.

  • Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

    Jointly with Peter C. Doherty for their discoveries concerning the specificity of the cell mediated immune defence.