Nobel Prizes for Research in Microbiology and Immunology

It is of great interest to all microbiology/biomedical students to know about microbiologists and their contribution for which they received Nobel prize. The Nobel Prize is the highest honor that a scientist can receive.

If we see the list of Nobel prize winners since the first Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded in 1901, we can find many microbiologists receiving this Nobel Prize.

Nobel Prize Shield
Nobel Prize Shield

In this article, we are looking back and seeing microbiologists who have won a Nobel Prize. Some of the people who have won Nobel prize in the field of microbiology or immunology, may not be a microbiologist but maybe a physician or biochemist, etc who have contributed in this field.

The following lists of  Nobel Prizes that have been awarded to microbiologists gives outlines the progress of microbiology, molecular biology and Immunology in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

1901 Emil Adolph Von Behring: Developed serum treatment, especially in diphtheria, and got Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1901.

1902 Sir Ronald Ross:  Discovered the life cycle of the malaria parasites in humans and mosquitoes thereby has laid the foundation for successful research on this disease and methods of combating it.

1905 Robert Koch:   The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1905 was awarded to Robert Koch “for his investigations and discoveries in relation to tuberculosis“.

Robert Koch: Won Nobel Prize in 1905 in Physiology or Medicine for discovery related to Tuberculosis
Robert Koch: Won Nobel Prize in 1905 in Physiology or Medicine for discovery related to Tuberculosis

1907 Charles Louis Alphonse Laveran:  Showed that the mosquito is the agent of transmission for malaria and the identification of the malaria parasite.

1908 Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov ((Elie Metchnikoff; Father of Natural Immunity), Paul Ehrlich:  Studied immune reactions and phagocytic cells.

1912 Alexis Carrel:  Developed organ and blood vessel transplantation.

1913 Charles Robert Richet:  Discovered and treated anaphylactic shock.

1919 Jules Bordet: Made fundamental discoveries in immunity.

1927 Julius Wagner- Jauregg: Used malaria (malariotherapy) to treat late-stage syphilis.

1928 Charles Nicolle: Made fundamental discoveries epidemic typhus is transmitted by lice.

1930 Karl Landsteiner: Discovered the ABO human blood groups.

1939 Gerhard Domagk: Discovered sulfa drugs.

1945 Sir Alexander Fleming Sir E. B. Chain Lord H. W. Florey:  Discovered and developed penicillin

1951 Max Theiler: Developed vaccine for yellow fever

1952:  The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1952 was awarded to Selman A. Waksman “for his discovery of streptomycin, the first antibiotic effective against tuberculosis”. Selman A. Waksman Discovered streptomycin

1953: The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1953 was divided equally between Hans Adolf Krebs “for his discovery of the citric acid cycle” and Fritz Albert Lipmann “for his discovery of co-enzyme A and its importance for intermediary metabolism”.

1954 The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1954 was awarded jointly to John Franklin Enders, Thomas Huckle Weller and Frederick Chapman Robbins “for their discovery of the ability of poliomyelitis viruses to grow in cultures of various types of tissue” and for  making polio vaccine possible

1957 Daniel Bovet: Developed antihistamines and synthetic curare-like agents.

1958 The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1958 was divided, one half jointly to George Wells Beadle and Edward Lawrie Tatum “for their discovery that genes act by regulating definite chemical events” and the other half to Joshua Lederberg “for his discoveries concerning genetic recombination and the organization of the genetic material of bacteria”.

1959 Severo Ochoa Arthur Kornberg: Made fundamental discoveries on the synthesis of DNA and RNA.

1960 F. M. Burnet Peter B. Medawar: Discovered the basis of acquired immunological tolerance.

1962 F. H. C. Crick J. D. Watson H. F. Wilkins elucidated the molecular structure of DNA,  The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1962 was awarded jointly to Francis Harry Compton Crick, James Dewey Watson and Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins “for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material”.

1965 :  The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1965 was awarded jointly to François Jacob, André Lwoff, and Jacques Monod “for their discoveries concerning genetic control of enzyme and virus synthesis”.

1966 Charles B. Huggins Francis Peyton Rous: Studied the role of hormones in causing cancer; demonstrated that viruses can cause cancer in animals

1969 M. Delbruck A. D. Hershey S. E. Luria: Discovered genetic structure and replication of bacteriophage

1971 E. W. Sutherland, Jr. : Made biochemical discoveries pertinent to pathogenesis

1972 Gerald M. Edelman Rodney R. Porter: Determined the structure of immunoglobulins.

1975 David Baltimore Howard Temin Renato Dulbecco: Discovered reverse transcriptase and made fundamental discoveries on the interaction between tumor viruses and the host nucleic acid.

1976 B. S. Blumberg D. C. Gajdusek: Discovered antigen important in diagnosing serum hepatitis.

1977 Rosalyn S. Yalow R. C. I. Guillemin A. V.Schally:  Demonstrated that the neurodegenerative disease kuru is caused by an “unconventional virus” now called a prion Developed radioimmunossay (RIA) techniques; used RIA to analyze peptide hormones in the brain.

1978 Daniel Nathans H. O. Smith Werner Arber: Used restriction enzymes to map viral genomes.

1980 Baruj Benacerraf George Snell Jean Dausse Paul Berg Walter Gilbert Frederick Sanger:  Made fundamental contributions to the biochemistry of recombinant DNA Made fundamental contributions on the sequencing of DNA Studied genetically determined structures in the cell surface that regulate immunological reactions

1983 Barbara McClintock:  Discovered mobile genetic elements (transposons)

1984 Cesar Milstein Georges J. F. Koehler Niels Jerne. Developed a method to produce large quantities of monoclonal antibodies

1987 Susumu Tonegawa. Discovered the genetic basis of antibody diversity

1988 J. Deisenhofer R. Huber H. Michel. Described the structure of photosynthetic reaction center in bacteria

1989 J. M. Bishop H. E. Varmus. Discovered the cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes, the proto-oncogenes

1990 Joseph E. Murray E. Donnall Thomas. Advanced understanding of organ and cell transplantation in the treatment of human disease

1993 Michael Smith Developed a technique for generating site-specific mutants

1993: Kary Mullis has invented the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technique in 1980s. The PCR technique was a breakthrough in our ability to detect tiny amounts of DNA and then amplify them into sufficient quantities. For this invention, Kary Mullis won Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1993 along with Michael Smith.

Kary B Mullis who won Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1993 for inventing PCR
Kary B Mullis who won Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1993 for inventing PCR

1996 Peter C. Doherty, Rolf M. Zinkernagel: Discovered how the immune system recognizes virus-infected cells.

1997 Stanley B. Prusiner Discovered and characterized prions as a new biological infectious agent containing only protein and no nucleic acid.

2001 Leland Hartwell Paul Nurse Tim Hunt Identified key molecular steps in the cell cycle using yeast as a model organism.

2005: Barry Marshall and Robin Warren: For the identification of Helicobacter pylori and its role in gastritis and peptic ulcer disease.

2008 Nobel Prize was shared between Harald zur Hausen, for his discovery that human papillomaviruses can cause cervical cancer, and Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier, for their discovery of HIV.

2011 Bruce A. Beutler Jules A. Hoffmann Ralph M. Steinman Discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity discovered the role of dendritic cells in adaptive immunity.

2015: One half jointly to William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura “for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites” and the other half to Tu Youyou “for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria.”

Figure: Upper left: Activation of T cells requires that the T-cell receptor binds to structures on other immune cells recognized as ”non-self”. A protein functioning as a T-cell accelerator is also required for T cell activation. CTLA- 4 functions as a brake on T cells that inhibits the function of the accelerator. Lower left: Antibodies (green) against CTLA-4 block the function of the brake leading to activation of T cells and attack on cancer cells.Upper right: PD-1 is another T-cell brake that inhibits T-cell activation. Lower right: Antibodies against PD-1 inhibit the function of the brake leading to activation of T cells and highly efficient attack on cancer cells. (Image source:

2018: Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2018) was jointly awarded to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation. James P. Allison found that T-cell proteinCTLA-4 functions as a brake on T cells. Tasuku Honjo discovered PD-1, another protein expressed on the surface of T-cells. He found that PD-1 similar to CTLA-4, functions as a T-cell brake, but operates by a different mechanism.

Nobel prize in Physiology and Medicine-2020 was given for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus
(Image source:

2020: Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine-2020 was jointly given to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus.

Acharya Tankeshwar

Hello, thank you for visiting my blog. I am Tankeshwar Acharya. Blogging is my passion. As an asst. professor, I am teaching microbiology and immunology to medical and nursing students at PAHS, Nepal. I have been working as a microbiologist at Patan hospital for more than 10 years.

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