Press Room

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 29, 2014

Semiconductor Laser Pioneer Suematsu and Epigenetics Leader Allis Named Japan Prize Laureates

Dr. Yasuharu Suematsu has contributed to establishing optical fiber communication technology indispensable for today’s information society and
Dr. C. David Allis has deciphered the roles of epigenetic changes in gene expression

TOKYO (January 29, 2014) - The Japan Prize Foundation today announced the winners of the 30th annual 2014 Japan Prize, one of the most prestigious international awards in science and technology. Dr. Yasuharu Suematsu of Japan has won the Japan Prize in the field of “Electronics, Information and Communication” and Dr. C. David Allis of the United States is the winner in the “Life Science“ field

Dr. Suematsu, Honorary Professor of Tokyo Institute of Technology, was recognized for his “pioneering research on semiconductor lasers for high-capacity, long-distance optical fiber communication,” which led to a major breakthrough in optical fiber communication technology that supports global information networks, such as the Internet. In early 1980s, Dr. Suematsu crystallized his long-nurtured concept of a “dynamic single-mode laser” as an optimal light source for optical fiber communication. The semiconductor laser uses a wavelength that minimizes loss of the light signal in an optical fiber to enable long-distance communication. The technology also reduces a dynamic wavelength fluctuation during high-speed modulation, resulting in the ability to transmit a large capacity of data. Today, dynamic single-mode lasers are widely used as the light source for high-capacity optical fiber transmission in land-based and intercontinental, submarine optical cables. Dr. Suematsu has thus made a significant contribution to laying the foundation for today’s information society.

Dr. Allis was given credit for his world-first “discovery of histone modifications as fundamental regulators of gene expression.” His discovery has elucidated how chemical modifications of histone proteins, around which DNA wraps itself in the cell’s nucleus, affect gene expression. His findings have ignited the field of epigenetics, a relatively new area of study which explores the inheritance of physical changes that cannot be traced back to mutations in the DNA sequence. Recent studies have identified epigenetic changes such as histone modifications as a factor in the development of some types of cancer and have led to the development of new drugs that work to treat tumors at the molecular level. For example, a drug to regulate histone acetylation has already been approved and used clinically in the United States to treat patients of Cutaneous T cell lymphoma. Histone modifications have also been found to play an important role in cell reprogramming and are expected to contribute to the field of regenerative medicine, including the use of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells in the treatment of disease. Dr. Allis is the Joy and Jack Fishman Professor and Head of Laboratory of Chromatin Biology and Epigenetics at The Rockefeller University in New York City.

The Japan Foundation awards the Japan Prize every year to scientists and researchers in two categories who, regardless of nationality, made substantial contributions to their fields as well as peace and prosperity of mankind. Dr. Suematsu and Dr. Allis well deserve to receive this esteemed honor. Each of them will receive a certificate of recognition and a commemorative gold medal at an award ceremony on April 23, 2014 during the Japan Prize Week in Tokyo. A cash award of 50 million Japanese yen (approximately US$481,000) will also be given to each field.

Currently, the Foundation is in the first stage of the nomination process for the 2015 Japan Prize, asking its selected nominators across the globe to turn in the names and achievements of the candidates who they think deserve the prestigious international prize in the fields of “Resources, Energy and Social Infrastructure” and “Medical Science and Medicinal Science.” The submission deadline is the end of February.

About Japan Prize Foundation
Since its inception in 1985, the Japan Prize Foundation has awarded the Japan Prize to 81 people from 13 countries. In addition to awarding the Japan Prize, which is endorsed by the Japanese government, the Foundation has been hosting "Easy-to-Understand Science and Technology" seminars and awarding research grants to help nurture young scientists and further promote the advancement of science and technology. For additional details about the Japan Prize Foundation and its activities, please visit http://www.japanprize.jp


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