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October 8, 2012

Comments on the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Shinya Yamanaka

Comment from Ryoji Noyori, RIKEN President

I would like to express my heartfelt congratulations to Professor Yamanaka on receiving the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. His work represents a major research achievement originating in Japan and is certain to make a significant contribution to the advancement of regenerative medicine.

Professor Yamanaka is only the second Japanese to receive the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The first to win the prize was Professor Susumu Tonegawa, the current director of RIKEN's Brain Science Institute, who received the same prize in 1987. The awarding of the prize to Professor Yamanaka is to me a clear sign of how strong Japan has become in recent years in the life sciences and medicine. This is especially encouraging for Japan and for the Japanese people.

At only 50 years of age, Professor Yamanaka is a brilliant scientist. I am sure he will continue to play a leading role in the world for a long time to come. Looking ahead, Japan must focus on pursuing integrated research that links basic research to clinical applications. Professor Yamanaka is even now working with a large number of young scientists at RIKEN on a number of joint projects, and I look forward to the fruits of their labor.

Comment from Susumu Tonegawa, Director of the RIKEN Brain Science Institute

I would like to express my heartfelt congratulations to Professor Shinya Yamanaka on being awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

I was certain he would get this award, and have been looking forward to this day.

The news of the award brings two thoughts to mind.

One is that although scholarship and research are normally independent of national boundaries and citizenship, I must say that this award has special significance for Japan. While a number of Japanese have received Nobel Prizes in the fields of physics and chemistry, for the past two or three decades, none has received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. In this respect, I am profoundly pleased that Professor Yamanaka has won the prize in this field.

Second, while Professor Yamanaka's iPS cell research opens up immeasurable possibilities for applications in medicine and pharmacology, his discoveries are the product of outstanding and innovative basic research. I am doubly pleased with his award because Professor Yamanaka has demonstrated the great importance of basic research.

I remember, when Professor Yamanaka gave a lecture at RIKEN a few years ago, how impressed I was to learn that his great discovery came out of research conducted by a very small team consisting of himself and two young students. This was very much like my own case. In recent years, the scale of science and technology research has expanded a great deal, but in the final analysis, much still depends on the creativity and resourcefulness of the individual.

I sincerely hope that this award will spur Professor Yamanaka onto even greater achievements.