Press Room


January 25, 2012

2012 Japan Prize Awarded to Trailblazers in Leukemia Research and Inventor of Highest-Performance Magnet
Dr. Janet Rowley, Dr. Brian Druker and Dr. Nicholas Lydon for Healthcare and Medical Technology; Dr. Masato Sagawa for Environment, Energy and Infrastructure

Tokyo (January 25, 2012)

– The Japan Prize Foundation today announced the laureates of its 2012 Japan Prize, one of the world's most prestigious awards in science and technology. Three American medical experts, Dr. Janet Rowley, Dr. Brian Druker and Dr. Nicholas Lydon, and a Japanese innovator, Dr. Masato Sagawa, have been selected to receive the accolade for the fields of healthcare and medical technology and environment, energy and infrastructure, respectively.

Janet Rowley, M.D., Blum-Riese Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine, Molecular Genetics & Cell Biology and Human Genetics of the University of Chicago, Brian Druker, M.D., Director of the Oregon Health & Science University Knight Cancer Institute, and Nicholas Lydon, Ph.D., Founder and Director of Blueprint Medicines, were recognized for their contribution to the “development of a new therapeutic drug targeting cancer-specific molecules,” called Imatinib, and Masato Sagawa, Dr. Eng., President of Intermetallics Co., Ltd., was honored for “developing the world’s highest-performing neodymium-iron-boron (Nd-Fe-B) type permanent magnet and contributing to energy conservation” as stated in the citation of the 28th annual award.

“We’re honored to give this year’s awards to the four distinguished people,” said Hiroyuki Yoshikawa, Chairman of the Japan Prize Foundation, in announcing the laureates at a press conference Wednesday in Tokyo.  “They truly deserve the Japan Prize, which is given to scientists and researchers who made substantial contributions not only scientifically but also to promoting the advancement of science and technology for the peace and prosperity of mankind.”

“I am particularly pleased to share this award with my good friend and collaborator, Nick Lydon, and one of my personal heroes, Dr. Janet Rowley,” Dr. Druker said in his acceptance speech at the press conference.  Speaking about the development of Imatinib, he said: “Today patients who once had a life expectancy of three to five years are now expected to live 30 years.  With Imatinib, we’ve turned a fatal cancer into a manageable disease .... There are incredible opportunities in cancer research.  What Imatinib tells us is that by understanding cancer we can develop effective treatments.  Imatinib tells us we are on the right track but we can’t be complacent.  We can’t be patient.  We must seize this momentum to reach the finish line of curing cancer.”  

“I am extremely honored and delighted to be awarded with the prestigious Japan Prize,” said Dr. Sagawa.  “With Nd-Fe-B type magnets, high efficiency motors and generators of superb quality can be realized.  However, there are problems that still need to be solved in order to cope with the enormous demand in the future we expect from hybrid and electric cars, air-conditioning equipment and wind power generators, etc. ... I will work with researchers of magnet material around the world to take the research on Nd-Fe-B type magnets to the next level, and prove that science and technology can solve issues concerning mankind.  And through the fruits of this research, I would also like to demonstrate to people that peace and prosperity of mankind can be brought about by advancement in science and technology.”

Dr. Rowley and Dr. Lydon sent in recorded messages in lieu of attending the conference.

Dr. Rowley said, “I’m especially delighted to share this honor with eminent scientists who built on my discovery of translocation and work of others to develop a treatment that has turned this leukemia into a chronic disease for many patients.”  She concluded her message by saying, “My family and I look forward to a trip to Japan in April to receive this marvelous prize with my colleagues.” 

Dr. Lydon sent a special message to young people: “I consider myself extremely blessed in having been able to contribute to a field that has made a difference to cancer patients.  I thank you for this great honor, and hope that it will inspire young scientists to work on translating basic discoveries into treatments that have an impact on patient’s lives.”

The 2012 Japan Prize laureates will each receive a certificate of recognition and a commemorative gold medal at an award ceremony during Japan Prize Week in Tokyo on April 25, 2012.  A cash award of 50 million Japanese yen will also be given to each field - this year the three laureates in the healthcare and medical technology field will split the prize equally.

2013-2015 Japan Prize Designated Eligible Fields

Last November, The Japan Prize Foundation announced the elected fields eligible for the 2013-2015 Japan Prize, which are listed below. In 2014, the Japan Prize will celebrate its 30th year of honoring world leaders of science and technology.

  Designated Field of Eligibility For: Physics, Chemistry, Engineering Designated Field of Eligibility For: Life Science, Agriculture, Medicine
2013 Materials, Production Biological Production, Biological Environment
2014 Electronics, Information, Communications Life Science
2015 Resources, Energy, Social Infrastructure Medical Science, Medicinal Science

About Japan Prize Foundation

Since its inception in 1985, The Japan Prize Foundation has awarded the Japan Prize to 74 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

High-resolution portraits of the laureates are available at the Japan Prize online press room at

Media Contacts:
The Japan Prize Foundation
Toshiyuki Aizawa / Kiyoshi Ogura
Tel: 81-3-5545-0551 Fax: 81-3-5545-0054
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