Francis Collins: Steve Rosenberg is a hero on several grounds. The idea that the immune system could actually succeed here, not his original idea. There’s a surgeon more than 100 years ago, Coley, who first proposed that, but most people thought he was probably barking up the wrong tree ’cause it didn’t seem to work very well. Steve had the vision to pursue this and to pursue it in a rigorous scientific way, so that’s the second part of being a hero. It’s not just having an idea, but figuring out how do you go after this?

And then the persistence. You know, how many of us would work on an idea for 20, 25 years, watching patient after patient succumb to their disease with an occasional rare success and not begin to think, “Well, maybe I should do something else.” Steve never wavered. He was determined. “There’s something here. We just have to keep trying, and we’re gonna figure out what it is.” And he’s also an incredible, compassionate human being. He never stepped away from his desire to help people and to know who they were.

I mean, you watch Steve interact with a patient. This is not just an academic conversation. This is a caring physician trying to help a patient who’s very much in need of that help.