Gladstone's Shinya Yamanaka Wins Prestigious Shaw Prize for Stem Cell Discoveries

By Valerie Tucker on June 11, 2008

The J. David Gladstone Institutes today announced that senior investigator Shinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD, also of Kyoto University and a UCSF professor of anatomy, has been awarded the prestigious Shaw Prize for his contributions in reprogramming adult skin cells to pluripotent, embryonic-like stem cells. He will receive half of the $1 million award.

Shinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD

Cloning pioneers Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell will split the other half of the prize for their landmark generation of the now famous sheep, Dolly.

“Dr. Yamanaka’s discoveries have dramatically accelerated the pace of stem cell research and the development of this technology for regenerative therapies,” said Gladstone president Robert W. Mahley, MD, PhD. “We’re proud that our colleague has received this international honor.”

Dr. Yamanaka and his Kyoto University laboratory demonstrated in 2006 that the addition of just four genes could convert adult mouse skin cells back to embryonic-like stem cells, which he called induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. The iPS cells could turn into all of the different cell types of the body and appeared to have the same properties as embryonic stem cells. Importantly, the pluripotent cells were made without the need to generate an embryo, obviating many of the ethical concerns around stem cell biology.

Then in 2007, Dr. Yamanaka's laboratory created iPS cells from human skin cells in a similar fashion. Dr. Yamanaka’s discoveries have opened a new field of science and represent a quantum leap forward in stem cell biology.

The Shaw Prize, established under the auspices of Mr. Run Run Shaw in November 2002, is an international award to honor individuals who are currently active in their respective fields and who have made outstanding contributions in the biomedical sciences and innovations in clinical medicine.

“The landmark contributions by these scientists who are honored with the Shaw Prize have thereby ushered in a new era in stem cell research, with huge potential benefits to mankind.” said the Shaw Prize Foundation.

The Shaw Prize consists of three annual prizes: Astronomy, Life Science and Medicine, and Mathematical Sciences, each prize bearing a monetary award of 1 million US dollars. The presentation will take place in Hong Kong, Tuesday, September 9, 2008.