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International Prize for biology

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Process of Selection

Report on the Process of Selection

Dr. Masamitsu Wada
Chair, Selection Committee on the International Prize for Biology

  Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

  On behalf of the Selection Committee for the 27th International Prize for Biology, it gives me great pleasure to report on this year’s selection process.

  The Selection Committee consisted of 20 members, including myself. Four of our members were highly authoritative overseas researchers who were specially commissioned to serve on the committee.

  The field chosen for the prize this year was developmental biology. The committee distributed a total of 1,977 nomination forms to Japanese and foreign universities, research centers, academic associations, individual researchers, and international academic organizations involved in this field of biology, and received a total of 70 recommendations in response. As some of these recommendations named the same individuals, the actual number of individuals recommended was 47, from 16 countries throughout the world.

  The Selection Committee met a total of four times and very carefully reviewed all the candidates. Ultimately, the committee decided to recommend Dr. Eric Harris Davidson of the United States of America to the Prize Committee as the recipient of the 27th International Prize for Biology.

  Dr. Davidson was born in 1937 and is of American nationality. He obtained his doctorate from Rockefeller University in 1963, and has since led a highly productive research career in developmental biology at Rockefeller University and the California Institute of Technology. He is currently professor of cell biology at the California Institute of Technology.

  His long career has been devoted to solving the key issues in developmental biology, including the role of genes in development, how genes are turned on and off, and the mechanisms of development and evolution.

  Dr. Davidson predicted that, in the process by which a single-celled fertilized egg divides and differentiates into cells with diverse forms and functions, there would need, in principle, to be precise regulation of gene expression together with interaction among the expressed genes; accordingly, he proposed “gene regulatory networks” as a theoretical concept and went on to prove their existence experimentally through his energetic work with sea urchins. Founded on his global view of animal development, which has yielded insights ahead of their time, together with his exacting and exhaustive experimental technique and his ability to rethink paradigms, these achievements of Dr. Davidson’s constitute a truly exceptional research career.

  To establish the regulatory mechanisms that govern gene expression is a central task not only for developmental biologists but for scientists in fields ranging from genetics, molecular biology, and cell biology to neurobiology and immunobiology, and Dr. Davidson’s work in formulating and validating the concept of gene regulatory networks has contributed greatly to the advancement of the biological sciences as a whole.

  In making our selection, the major criteria used by the Selection Committee were the originality of the candidate’s research, its international significance, and its contribution to advancing progress in the selected field of biology. We found Dr. Davidson’s work to more than amply satisfy every one of these criteria and, on this basis, we judged him to be the most highly suited candidate to receive this year’s International Prize for Biology.

  The Committee on the International Prize for Biology accepted our recommendation of Dr. Eric Harris Davidson and has bestowed upon him the 27th International Prize for Biology.

  With this, I conclude my report on the process of selection.