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The Oxford immunology community celebrated the donation of Sir Peter Medawar’s Nobel Prize medal to the University.

(left - right): Charles Medawar, Caroline Garland-Taylor, Louise Stevenson

On Thursday 25th April 2024, the Oxford immunology community celebrated the kind donation of Sir Peter Medawar’s Nobel Prize medal to the University and were privileged to be joined by several generations of the Medawar family at the Peter Medawar Building for Pathogen Research. Peter’s son Charles Medawar unveiled the medal, and attendees enjoyed a poetry reading from Peter’s daughter, Beatrice Garland, as well as speeches from Professor Paul Klenerman, Sidney Truelove Professor of Gastroenterology; Dr Fadi Issa, Associate Professor of Plastic Surgery and Professor Matthew Freeman, Head of Department at the William Dunn School of Pathology.

Sir Peter Brian Medawar (1915 – 1987) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1960, with Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet, for their seminal contributions to the discovery of acquired immunological tolerance. Medawar’s findings enabled successful human organ transplantation, a procedure which now saves thousands of lives each year. His research also led to a paradigm shift in our understanding of immunology, the impact of which endures to this day. Medawar’s route to this breakthrough began with his investigation of skin graft rejection in World War II burns casualties, when he developed the theory that rejection was an immune response.

Then, through transplantation of foreign cells into mouse embryos followed by subsequent transplants in the adult mice, he found that tolerance could be acquired. This crucial discovery meant it was possible to develop the methods of immunosuppression we use today to prevent organ rejection by the immune system following transplantation. His family have donated his Nobel Prize medal to encourage and inspire good science at the University of Oxford.

With kind support from the Medawar family, the Oxford Immunology Network has also established a new Peter Medawar Prize for Immunology.  This will be awarded annually to recognise an Oxford researcher who has made an outstanding contribution to immunology, both through their scientific excellence and through their broader contributions to the academic community. The 2024 prize was awarded to Dr Yiqi Zhao from the Dunn School for her outstanding contribution to understanding innate immunity and viral evasion, and wider contributions to the immunology community.