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March 1, 2012

Dr. Yoshihide Hayashizaki has been appointed Honorary Doctor of Medicine at Karolinska Institutet

Dr. Yoshihide Hayashizaki

Dr. Yoshihide Hayashizaki, the director of the RIKEN Omics Science Center, was appointed as Honorary Doctor of Medicine at Karolinska Institutet in 2012. Honorary Doctor of Medicine is awarded to people who have made significant contributions to the research at Karolinska Institutet.

Dr. Hayashizaki aims to understand life phenomena at a molecular level and has conducted large-scale RNA analyses using next-generation sequencers. To establish a large-scale analysis pipeline, he led the development of unique technologies, such as the full-length cDNA technology to read complete sequences of mRNAs and the Cap Analysis of Gene Expression (CAGE) method to identify transcription start sites on genome and to quantitate their expression levels with by high-throughput sequencing. These technologies have made vital contribution to the progress of RNA research in the world.

To annotate the massive amount of the full-length cDNA data which was produced by these technologies, Dr. Hayashizaki organized an international research consortium, FANTOM (Functional Annotation of Mammalian Genome), which consists of a large amount of researchers from 21 different countries. As a result of their annotations, they found large amounts of RNA which does not encode proteins, called non-coding RNAs. Before this discovery, only about 100 ncRNAs with functions had been identified, such as ribosomal RNAs and transfer RNAs. However, this finding showed that ncRNAs make up the largest part of the population of RNAs. Furthermore, they revealed that those ncRNAs play key roles in various gene expression machineries including transcriptional regulation and translational regulation.

RNA interference discovered by Dr. Andrew Z. Fire and Dr. Craig C. Mello, to whom the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded in 2006, is one of functions of ncRNAs. The discoveries of many ncRNAs and their functions have changed the common knowledge of the genetic machinery in living organisms.

The database established by the analyses of the FANTOM has become a world standard in the field and an essential resource for RNA research. The worldwide collaborations, especially the FANTOM projects, that were established by Dr. Hayashizaki have made vital contributions to the research at Karolinska Institutet which brought this honorary doctorate to him.

A ceremony for his honorary doctorate will be held in the Stockholm City Hall in Sweden in May.

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