2016 Japan Prize Honors Trailblazers in Material Science and Plant Breeding
Dr. Hideo Hosono challenged conventional wisdom by creating innovative materials;
Dr. Steven D. Tanksley laid the foundation for modern crop breeding
TOKYO (January 26, 2016) - The Japan Prize Foundation today announced the winners of
the 2016 Japan Prize, who have pushed the envelope in their respective fields of "Materials
and Production" and "Biological Production and Biological Environment" with imaginative
ideas, thereby significantly contributing to the advancement of science and technology, as
well as serving the cause of peace and prosperity of mankind.
Dr. Hideo Hosono, Professor of Materials and Structures Laboratory and Founding Director of
the Materials Research Center for Element Strategy at Tokyo Institute of Technology, was
recognized for the "creation of unconventional inorganic materials with novel electronic
functions based on nanostructure engineering."
His achievements include the creation of a number of semiconductors using transparent
amorphous oxides, materials believed to be electrically insulating. In-Ga-Zn-O thin-film
transistor (IGZO-TFT) is a notable example of such inventions. This material is now used
widely as energy-efficient liquid crystal display (LCD) screens in personal and tablet
computers and is also starting to be implemented in large-size organic light emitting diode
(OLED) TV panels. He also created electrically-conductive materials from a constituent of
commercial alumina cement and superconductors based on iron, a metal thought to be
unfavorable for superconductivity - to name just a few examples. With innovative thinking,
Dr. Hosono opened up new horizons in material science and contributed immensely to the
development of industry.
Dr. Steven D. Tanksley, Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor Emeritus of Cornell University, was
recognized for his “contribution to modern crop breeding through research on development of
molecular genetic analysis.” Dr. Tanksley created chromosomal maps of crops using
molecular genetic analysis and then proceeded to develop a revolutionary technique to
identify genes that are related to agricultural productivity, such as those that affect fruit size.
He thus introduced science-based technology to traditional crop breeding that largely relied
on experience, intuition and luck. His research, which combines genetic information and
breeding techniques, has contributed enormously to increasing selection accuracy and
reducing the amount of time required to breed new crop varieties.
Dr. Tanksley’s highly original approach inspired researchers around the world. Triggered by
his research, for example, Marker Assisted Selection (MAS) was developed. This
breakthrough technology enables systematic improvement of crops based on DNA markers,
leading to a stable production of crops. Today, MAS has become an indispensable method
of crop development and livestock breeding.
To honor Dr. Hosono and Dr. Tanksley, the Japan Prize Foundation will host an award
ceremony on April 20 in Tokyo. Each laureate will receive a certificate of recognition and a
commemorative gold medal. A cash award of 50 million Japanese yen (approximately
US$420,000) will also be given to each laureate.
Currently, the Foundation is in the initial stage of the nomination process for the 2017 Japan
Prize, asking its selected nominators across the globe to turn in the names and achievements
of the candidates who they think deserve the prestigious international prize in the fields of
"Electronics, Information and Communication" and "Life Science." The submission deadline
is the end of February 2016.
About Japan Prize Foundation
Since its inception in 1985, the Japan Prize Foundation has awarded the Japan Prize to 81
people from 13 countries. In addition to awarding the Japan Prize, which is endorsed by the
Japanese government, the Foundation has been hosting "Easy-to-Understand Science and
Technology" seminars and awarding research grants to help nurture young scientists and
further promote the advancement of science and technology. For additional details about the
Japan Prize Foundation and its activities, please visit http://www.japanprize.jp/en/