Ralph Steinman shares the award with two other scientists, American Bruce Beutler and French scientist Jules Hoffmann.
Rockefeller University announced Steinman passed away Friday after battling pancreatic cancer.
Nobel prizes are typically not given out posthumously. The Nobel committee didn't know Steinman was dead when it chose him, and it's looking through its regulations.
The three scientists earned the award for their work on the immune system. They made discoveries about the way the body responds to microorganisms.
The trio's discoveries have enabled the development of improved vaccines against infectious diseases. In the long term they could also yield better treatments of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and chronic inflammatory diseases.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.