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Gladstone iPSC Nobel Laureate Elected to National Academy of Medicine

Nobel Laureate (2012) Shinya Yamanaka (photo), M.D., Ph.D., a Senior Investigator at the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco and inventor of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine. “This latest accomplishment further acknowledges Shinya’s tremendous contributions to the fields of science and medicine. His discovery of induced pluripotent stem cells has revolutionized biomedical research and has the potential to improve the lives of millions. This distinction is well deserved,” says Gladstone President R. Sanders “Sandy” Williams, M.D. “It is a great honor to be named to this distinguished institution and join such an esteemed group of scientists. It is especially meaningful that the decision is made by a panel of my peers,” says Dr. Yamanaka, who is also the L.K. Whittier Foundation Investigator in Stem Cell Biology at Gladstone, a Professor of Anatomy at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and Director and Professor at the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA), Kyoto University in Japan. Election to the National Academy of Medicine, formerly the Institute of Medicine, is considered one of the highest accomplishments in the fields of health and medicine and recognizes individuals around the world who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service. “Our newly elected members represent the brightest, most influential, and passionate people in health, science, and medicine in our nation and internationally,” said Academy President Victor J. Dzau in a press release (http://nam.edu/nam-elects-80-new-members/) announcing this year’s election of new members. “They are at the top of their fields and are committed to service. The expertise they bring to the organization will help us respond to today’s most pressing health-related challenges and inform the future of health, science, and medicine. It is my privilege to welcome these distinguished individuals to the National Academy of Medicine." Dr. Yamanaka joins Gladstone colleague Deepak Srivastava, M.D., Director the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease, who was also inducted into the Academy over the weekend. Other Academy members from the Gladstone community include Warner Greene, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology, President Emeritus Robert Mahley, M.D., Ph.D., and Gladstone President Dr. Williams.

In 2012, Dr. Yamanaka was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his discovery that skin cells can be reprogrammed into pluripotent stem cells by changing just four key genes. Adding additional factors can then turn these so-called “induced pluripotent stem cells” (iPS cells) into heart, brain, blood, liver, pancreas, and other types of cells.

Specifically, Dr. Yamanaka shared the 2012 Nobel for Physiology or Medicine with the UK’s legendary Sir John B Gurdon, Ph.D., “for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent."

When the skin cell sample is taken from someone with a specific disease, the iPS cells that are produced contain a complete set of the genes associated with the illness, and disease models can be developed to facilitate research and drug discovery.

In addition to the Nobel Prize, Dr. Yamanaka has received many awards and honors for his research, including the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, the Wolf Prize in Medicine, the Millennium Technology Prize, the Shaw Prize, the Kyoto Prize for Advanced Technology, the Gairdner International Award, the Robert Koch Award, and the March of Dimes Prize.

Dr. Yamanaka spent two years as an orthopedic surgeon before being attracted to the field of basic research. He joined the Gladstone Institutes as a postdoctoral fellow in 1993, where his early research into proteins involved in cholesterol metabolism led him to the study of embryonic stem cells and differentiation.

In 2004, Dr. Yamanaka took his current position as a Professor at Kyoto University, and he was appointed as a Senior Investigator at the Gladstone Institutes in 2007.

Dr. Yamanaka has served as the Director of CiRA at Kyoto University since 2008.

This BioQuick report is based on a Gladstone press release authored by Dana G. Smith, Ph.D.

[Press release] [2012 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine] [Dr. Shinya Yamanaka] [National Academy of Medicine press release]