We would hereby like to congratulate the honorary professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Prof. Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi, for winning this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm awarded Ohsumi the prestigious price for his extraordinary work in the field of cell repair, namely “his discoveries of mechanisms of autophagy.”
Autophagy is a fundamental physiological process for degrading and recycling cellular components and is commonly found among various organisms. The name is derived from Greek and translates to “self-eating.” The concept emerged during the 1960’s, when researchers first observed that a cell could destroy its own contents by enclosing them in membranes. In a series of brilliant experiments in the early 1990’s, Yoshinori Ohsumi used baker’s yeast to identify genes essential for autophagy, which eventually led to a new understanding of how the cell recycles its content.
2016 marks the second consecutive year in which a Japanese scientist has won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine after Satoshi Omura, a distinguished professor emeritus at Kitasato University in Tokyo, won the prize for his work in eradicating parasitic diseases in 2015. Ohsumi is thus the fourth Japanese to win the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and will be awarded the cash prize of 94 million yen (930,000 USD).
Prof. Omura was born in Fukuoka, Japan in 1945; he received a B.Sci. in 1967 and a D.Sci. in 1974, both from the University of Tokyo. He then moved to the United States where from 1974 to 1977 he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Rockefeller University in New York City. He subsequently moved back to his Alma Mater as a research associate and was promoted in 1988 to Associate Professor. After his retirement in 2014, he continued to serve as Professor at the Institute of Innovative Research, Tokyo Institute of Technology. Currently, he is heading the Cell Biology Research Unit, Institute of Innovative Research, Tokyo Institute of Technology.