Tasuku Honjo Biography

Tasuku Honjo is a distinguished Japanese physician-scientist, immunologist, and Nobel laureate. He is best known for his discovery of Programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) and his conclusion that the protein acts as a negative regulator of immune responses. This groundbreaking discovery led to the development of anti-PD-1 and anti-PD-L1 antibodies, which have proven to be effective in cancer immunotherapy. Honjo has received numerous prestigious awards, including the 2014 Tang Prize in Biopharmaceutical Science and the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. He has held academic positions at several universities in Japan and is a member of various prestigious academies and associations.

Quick Facts

  • Age: 81 Years, 81 Year Old Males
  • Born Country: Japan
  • Biochemists
  • Immunologists
  • Notable Alumni: Kyoto University
  • City: Kyoto, Japan
  • Education: Kyoto University
  • Awards: Imperial Prize (1996), Koch Prize (2012), Order of Culture (2013), Tang Prize (2014), Kyoto Prize (2016), Alpert Prize (2017), Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2018)

Childhood & Early Life

Tasuku Honjo was born on January 27, 1942, in Kyoto, Japan. His father was a surgeon who worked at Kyoto University Hospital and later at Yamaguchi University Medical School. Honjo attended Kyoto University and earned his M.D. degree from the Faculty of Medicine in 1966. He completed his Ph.D. degree in Medical Chemistry in 1975 under the supervision of Yasutomi Nishizuka and Osamu Hayaishi.

Scientific Career & Work

After completing his education, Honjo went to the United States. He worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Embryology at the Carnegie Institution of Washington in Baltimore from 1971 to 1973. He then joined the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, where he studied the genetic basis for the immune response. Honjo worked with American geneticist Philip Leder at the NIH and later served as an NIH Fogarty Scholar in Residence.

From 1974 to 1979, Honjo worked at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Tokyo as an assistant professor. He then joined Osaka University School of Medicine as a professor in the Department of Genetics. During this time, he made significant contributions to the understanding of immunoglobulin class switching or class switch recombination (CSR). In 1984, he became a professor in the Department of Medical Chemistry at Kyoto University Faculty of Medicine, and later a professor in the Department of Immunology and Genomic Medicine.

Throughout his career, Honjo made several important discoveries. He collaborated with Eva Severinson in cloning cytokines that enhance class switching and discovered IL-4 and IL-5, which play critical roles in CSR and T cell differentiation. He also discovered activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) and demonstrated its importance in CSR and somatic hypermutation (SHM). In 1992, Honjo and his colleagues discovered and named the programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1), which is a negative regulator of immune responses. Their findings contributed to the development of cancer immunotherapy through PD-1 blockade.

Honjo received numerous awards and honors for his work, including the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2018, which he shared with James P Allison. He also received the first Tang Prize in Biopharmaceutical Science in 2014. Honjo served as the president of the Japanese Society for Immunology and became a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina. He has received other major awards such as the Imperial Prize of the Japan Academy, the Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences, and the Keio Medical Science Prize.

Personal Life & Legacy

Not much is known about Honjo’s personal life, except that he is married to a woman named Shigeko and has two children, Hajime and Yasuko. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a false claim circulated that Honjo believed the novel coronavirus was manufactured in a lab in Wuhan, China. Honjo issued a statement on the Kyoto University website denying these claims and expressing his sadness that his name was being used to spread misinformation.

Leave a Comment