Press Room


January 30, 2018

2018 Japan Prize Honors Pioneers in Medical Science and Energy

Max D. Cooper and Jacques Miller discovered the dual nature of adaptive immunity, fueling rapid advances in medical science;
Akira Yoshino invited the lithium-ion battery, making modern mobile phone and electric vehicle technologies possible

TOKYO (January 30, 2018) – Central to its deep commitment to honor the most innovative and meaningful advances worldwide, The Japan Prize Foundation today announced the laureates of the 2018 Japan Prize, who have pushed the envelope in their respective fields of Medicals Science and Medicinal Science and Resources, Energy, Environment and Social Infrastructure. Three scientists are being recognized with the 2018 Japan Prize for original and outstanding achievements that not only contribute to the advancement of science and technology, but also promote peace and prosperity for all mankind.

Dr. Max D. Cooper, Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, and Dr. Jacques Miller, Emeritus Professor at The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia, are being honored for deciphering the two types of lymphocyte lineages involved in adaptive immunity, laying the conceptual groundwork for our understanding of nearly all fields touched by immunology.

Dr. Miller discovered that animals subjected to thymic ablation at birth were unable to reject transplanted foreign tissues and succumbed to many types of infections. This discovery demonstrated that the thymus, an organ then considered to be vestigial, is vital for the development and function of the adaptive immune system. He also demonstrated that mouse lymphocytes can be separated into two developmentally and functionally distinct lineages that were later called T and B lymphocytes, and that in mammals, T lymphocytes are produced by the thymus. Meanwhile, Dr. Cooper, as a pediatrician, noticed apparent differences in the clinical manifestations among patients suffering from primary immunodeficiencies, leading him to hypothesize the existence of functionally different cell lineages in the adaptive immune system. To verify this hypothesis, he used chickens without bursa of Fabricius or thymus and found that B (bursa-derived) lymphocytes are required for antibody responses of humoral immunity, while T (thymus derived) lymphocytes are responsible for delayed-type hypersensitivity responses, graft-versus-host reaction and skin-graft rejection, all of which are mediated by cellular immunity.

The series of studies by Dr. Miller and Dr. Cooper thus revealed the dual nature of the adaptive immunity, the B lymphocyte-mediated humoral immunity and T lymphocyte-mediated cellular immunity.

These discoveries fueled rapid advancements in both basic and applied sciences, creating ripple effects socially and economically. In recent years, the developments of new anti-cancer drugs (such as immune checkpoint inhibiting antibodies and genetically-modified T lymphocytes) and anti-cytokine antibodies for the treatment of autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, have received great attention in the field of Medicals Science and Medicinal Science. These recent accomplishments would not have been possible without the ceaseless efforts in basic immunology and translational research that unfolded in the wake of the pioneering discoveries made by Drs. Cooper and Miller.

Digitization, the IT revolution, and the mobile revolution centered around cell phones that arose in the early 1990s would not have been possible without the advent of compact, lightweight, high capacity, and long-life lithium ion batteries. Dr. Akira Yoshino’s work in this area is especially momentous as the foundation of today’s lithium ion battery technology and industry.

Dr. Akira Yoshino has made significant contributions to the development of lithium ion batteries. His chief contributions are in the development of its elemental technologies, including the aluminum foil current collector for the positive electrode and the polyacetylene separator, which he combined with existing LiCoO2 positive electrode materials and carbon-based anode materials to achieve a practically viable lithium ion battery capable of generating an electromotive force of 3.9V or greater.

Leading up to the realization of practical lithium ion batteries, there had been various advances in the development of elemental technologies. In 1979, Dr. Koichi Mizushima and Dr. John B. Goodenough at the University of Oxford developed the LiCoO2 positive electrode. Patents were filed by Dr. MacDiarmid of the University of Pennsylvania for the polyacetylene anode and by Dr. Hironosuke Ikeda of Sanyo Electric Co. for the graphite anode in 1980 and 1981 respectively.

At the time, promising positive electrode materials, such as combinations of metal-chalcogenide compounds and carbon anodes or LiCoO2 positive electrodes and lithium metal anodes, lacked the electromotive force for the realization of practical lithium ion batteries. By combining his original elemental technologies with existing technologies, Dr. Yoshino realized the lithium ion battery system, and this breakthrough went on to become one of the basic patents for lithium ion batteries. Having invented, developed and engineered this technology, Dr. Yoshino’s contribution has been truly immense.

To honor Drs. Cooper, Miller, and Yoshino, the Japan Prize Foundation will host an award ceremony on April 18, 2018 in Tokyo. Each laureate will receive a certificate of recognition and a commemorative gold medal. A cash award of 50 million Japanese yen (approximately $420,000 USD) will also be given to each laureate. The Japan Prize is highly competitive: the nomination process ends in February, and, every year from March to November, the Foundation considers the nominations of 13,000 prominent scientists and researchers from around the world.

Currently, the Foundation is in the initial stage of the nomination process for the 2019 Japan Prize, and is asking its selected nominators across the globe to nominate candidates whose achievements they believe to be deserving of the prestigious international prize in the fields of Materials and Production and Biological Production, Ecology. The submission deadline is February 28, 2018.

About the Japan Prize Foundation
The Japan Prize is awarded to scientists and researchers, regardless of nationality, who have made significant contributions to the progress of science and technology, as well as society, to further the peace and prosperity of mankind. While the prize encompasses all fields of science, two fields are designated for the Japan Prize each year. Since its inception in 1985, the Japan Prize Foundation has awarded the Japan Prize to 91 laureates from 13 countries. For additional details about the Japan Prize Foundation and its activities, please visit

More about the Press Room

Japan Prize News No.59

2018 Japan Prize Laureates Announced
This year’s Japan Prize will be awarded to Dr. Akira Yoshino for his significant contributions to the development of lithium ion batteries,
and jointly to Dr. Max D. Cooper and Dr. Jacques Miller for the establishment of the basic concepts underlying modern immunology
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30 Years of Japan Prize

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