Science is held pretty highly in Japan. The country has produced 15 Nobel Prize winners in the science disciplines, including two in the field of chemistry this year. But perhaps a little less in the international press’ limelight is Dr. Yoshiki Sasai, winner of the Osaka Science Prize. This honor is like the Japanese version of a science-biased Oscar for local scientists and is awarded each year to a person who has made a major contribution to physical science, engineering, agriculture, biology, medicine, pharmacology or information science by helping to advance scientific understanding and developing new technology. And this year the prestigious honor has been awarded to a developmental biologist.
Sasai is a Group Director in the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology, a visiting professor at the National Institute of Physiological Sciences and an affiliated professor at Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine. Adding to this impressive resume, Sasai was also a visiting professor at Lund University Faculty of Medicine and a research fellow at UCLA School of Medicine.
He was awarded with the Osaka Science Prize for his work in the analysis of organizational principles in brain development. His particular interest of research lies in understanding how the complexity of the fully-formed brain arises from a nondescript clump of cells in the embryo by studying very early neurogenesis and the mechanisms of neuronal differentiation.
It is heartening to know that developmental biologists are being recognized worldwide. It can, of course, only be a good thing.