A Nobel Laureate welcomes the beginning of HUNIMED lessons

Rolf M. Zinkernagel welcomes the first 100 aspiring Medical Doctors of Humanitas University. As a visiting professor of the institution established by the Humanitas Hospital in Milan, he illustrates the researches that lead him to receive, in 1996, the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

Rozzano, October 28th 2014 – The beginning of the A.Y. 2014/15 lessons at Humanitas University is welcomed by the presence of one of the prestigious visiting professors of the institution: the immunologist Rolf M. Zinkernagel, Nobel laureate in Medicine in 1996. Together with Marco Montorsi, Rector of the University, and Alberto Mantovani, Vice-Rector for Research, he welcomes the 100 students of the first year of the institution’s international Medical course in English with a special lecture on his research experience that lead him to receive the Nobel Prize. The lecture was attended also by the student of the IMS, the Medicine course of University of Milan, who have been being hosted at Humanitas since 5 years.

Rolf M. Zinkernagel is Full Professor and Director of the Institute of Experimental Immunology at the University of Zurich since 1992. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his studies on immune response. In particular, for having discovered in the ‘70s how the immune system distinguishes “self” from the external world (“non-self”), i.e. through the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC). This discovery had a deep impact both on the fundamental knowledge of the immune system, both on the potential clinical applications in several fields, from diagnostics to genetics, from autoimmune diseases to cell therapy against cancer.

As a visiting professor of Humanitas University, Zinkernagel in the next days will lecture to the aspiring Medical students. “His presence – explains prof. Marco Montorsi, Rector of the University – as Jules Hoffmann’s (Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2011), constitutes an extraordinary opportunity for cultural and personal growth for the students of Humanitas University Medical School. The two Nobel laureates will be followed by other visiting professors coming from some of the most prestigious Universities of the world, according to an exchange programme with foreign institutions that the Humanitas University is finalising.

The subject of Zinkernagel’s lecture to the first year students will be focused on the immune system. Prof. Alberto Mantovani explains: “The wide variety of defense mechanisms employed by the immune system can be divided in two categories: innate immune response and specific immune response, the latter being more sophisticated and able to provide specific response against certain pathogens (for instance against the Hepatitis B virus, and only against it, if we are vaccinated). Zinkernagel’s studies identified the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) as the code used by the specific immune system to recognize the external world. MHC, in other words, is a sort of “Identity Card” used by our defense system to recognize pathogens.

HUNIMED lessons begin

2014/15 is the first Academic Year of Humanitas University, private non-profit institution dedicated to the medical sciences and strictly integrated with the Humanitas Research Hospital in Milan.

The 100 students that after the admission test were admitted to the first year of the Medical School in English come from Italy and from abroad (12% of them come from other European countries, as this first year was open, as established by the Ministry of Education, only to EU students): UK, Greece, France, Switzerland, Gibraltar. Alongside them there are also 40 student in the course of Nursing.

International faculty, innovative teaching methods, strict interconnection with the Humanitas hospital, strong orientation to scientific research and financial autonomy are the cornerstones of the educational project of Humanitas University, in line with the best examples in the world.

Alongside the first two courses in the future there will be a wider offer of graduate and post-graduate courses, PhD courses, residencies and other opportunities for higher education and continuous learning. At full capacity Humanitas University will host more than 800 students.


Humanitas is a highly specialized Hospital, Research and Teaching Center. Built around centers for the prevention and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular, neurological and orthopedic disease – together with an Ophthalmic Center and a Fertility Center – Humanitas also operates a highly specialised Emergency Department.