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2011 Nobel Prize in Medicine to Remain Unchanged

Professor Hans-Gustaf Ljunggren of Karolinska Institute announces the 2011 Nobel Physiology or Medicine laureates during a news conference in Stockholm (file photo)

The Nobel Foundation in Stockholm, Sweden has announced that the 2011 Nobel Prize for Medicine will remain unchanged despite the death of one of the three laureates, Ralph Steinman.

The decision was handed down late Monday following an emergency meeting after it was learned that the Canadian-born Steinman died on Friday following a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer. The foundation met to deal with what it called the unprecedented event.

Steinman, Bruce Beutler of the United States and Jules Hoffmann of Luxembourg were awarded the prize earlier in the day for their work increasing understanding of the immune system, which could lead to curing cancer and other diseases.

The foundation's statutes say work produced by a person since deceased can not be awarded. However, the foundation interpreted the rule to mean the Nobel Prize could not deliberately be awarded posthumously. Since the decision to award the prize to Steinman was made in good faith under the assumption that he was alive, the laureates will remain unchanged.

Beutler and Hoffmann had been scheduled to split half the nearly $1.5 million prize money, while Steinman was to receive the other half.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences will name the winner in physics Tuesday and chemistry Wednesday. An award for economics, given in memory of Alfred Nobel, will be announced October 10. The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize recipient will be named Friday.

The Nobel Prizes were created by Alfred Nobel, a wealthy Swedish industrialist who invented dynamite. The first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.