Immune discovery changes modern medicine

Professor Peter Doherty AC (Companion of the Order of Australia, 1997)

Professor Peter Doherty in his office/lab, St Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis, USA Photo: The University of Queensland

Professor Peter Doherty AC (Companion of the Order of Australia, 1997)

A love of complex problems, bold ideas and a strong streak of non-conformity are among the qualities that led Australian researcher Peter Doherty to humanity’s highest scientific honour, the Nobel Prize.

The writings of Ernest Hemingway inspired young Peter to be ‘a man of action rather than a philosopher’, and he chose veterinary science as his field. There he became absorbed with the question of how microbes cause damage and disease.

Working with colleague Rolf Zinkernagel at the Australian National University, Peter helped explain how the immune system distinguishes between its owner, disease-causing microbes and the body cells they invade. ‘I share Alfred Nobel's conviction that war is the greatest of all human disasters. Infectious disease runs a good second,’ he says.

These discoveries have had a profound impact on immunology, the treatment of diseases - including cancer - and today’s success in organ transplantation. Throughout his research, Peter’s work has been marked by his tenacity, enterprise and enthusiasm for new ideas.

After a decade of leading-edge research in the US, Peter returned to Australia in 2001 to continue his career – and campaign for a stronger national science effort and greater scientific freedom to tackle the big questions.

The most distinguished Australian researcher of his generation, Peter is a pioneer in medical science, a leader and an innovator, with a strong commitment to bettering humanity – qualities for which he has been appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia. Companion appointments are made for distinguished service of a high degree to Australia and humanity.

See: Companion of the Order of Australia

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Last Updated: 24 May, 2006