Emil R. Unanue BS, MD

Recipient of the Canada Gairdner International Award, 2000
"For their discovery of the molecular and cellular basis of antigen processing leading to our understanding of the physiological role of histocompatibility molecules and T lymphocyte antigen recognition."

Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, USA


Emil Unanue is honored for his seminal contributions to the understanding of T-cell activation and its regulation. He showed that T-cells do not recognize intact pathogens but rather, recognize small components of the pathogen presented in the context of Class II products of the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC). These components are generated and presented in association with MHC Class II molecules by antigen-presenting cells. The discovery of the molecular and cellular basis of this process has provided a new interpretation of how the cells of the immune system recognize pathogens, and has opened up novel approaches to a rational analysis of the pathobiology of infectious and autoimmune diseases.

Dr. Unanue graduated in medicine in 1960 from the University of Havana, Cuba. He trained from 1961 to 1970 in Pittsburgh and La Jolla in the United States and at the National Institute for Medical Research, Mill Hill, London. In 1985 he joined Harvard University Medical School, where he became Mallinckrodt Professor of Immunopathology. In 1985 he moved to Washington University, St Louis, where he is Mallinckrodt Professor and Chairman of the Department of Pathology and Pathologist-in-Chief of the Barnes Jewish Hospital. Dr. Unanue's long record of distinctions includes the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award and Membership in the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. He has also made distinguished contributions as a speaker, author, editor and member of scientific organizations and has been Chair of the National Academy of Sciences Section of Microbiology and Immunology.