Japanese Biologist Bags Nobel Prize 2016 for Medicine

Yoshinori Ohsumi, a 71-year-old Japanese molecular biologist and a Tokyo Institute of Technology (TIT) professor, has won the Nobel Prize 2016 for Medicine on Monday at the Karolinska Institute. He has been recognized for his work on the mechanisms for autophagy.

Why Ohsumi Won the Nobel Prize 2016 for Medicine

Autophagy is a fundamental process that involves the degradation and recycling of cellular components. Conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and type 2 diabetes among the elderly relate to the disruptions in this biological process. Genetic diseases may also result from mutations in genes facilitating autophagy.

The Nobel Prize 2016 for Medicine recipient has identified 15 genes essential to the fundamental process. His pioneering discoveries signify an important breakthrough in molecular biology, paving way to a deeper understanding of autophagy.

“His discoveries opened the path to understanding the fundamental importance of autophagy in many physiological processes, such as in the adaptation to starvation or response to infection,” noted the Nobel Assembly.


In a recent interview, Ohsumi has explained that he found autophagy as an interesting topic. Humbly, with his works, he has reiterated that he wanted to help other people.

Ohsumi has also developed a history of autophagy research in 2014. Since scientists first discovered autophagy about 50 years ago, they have come to the conclusion that it is an integral process within the human body.

His Nobel Prize award marks the 107th Nobel Prize for Medicine since 1905. Last year, the recognition had been awarded to three scientists for their significant discoveries in malaria and other tropical illnesses.

About Ohsumi

Ohsumi began his scientific research at the Rockefella University. In 1988, he has set up his own laboratory to study autophagy. David Rubinsztein, a molecular neurogenetics professor at Cambridge University who studies autophagy as well, has commended Oshumi for a well-deserved recognition and his compelling work.

With the Nobel Prize, which is worth more than $900,000, under his name, Ohsumi is the sixth Japanese to receive the prestigious recognition in the field of Medicine.

The Nobel Prize 2016 for Physics will be awarded on Tuesday; and for Chemistry on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Nobel Peace Prize 2016 winners will be unveiled on Friday.

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