International Prize for Biology
Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)

International Prize for biology

Past Recipents

Process of Selection

Report on the Process of Selection

Dr. Noriyuki Satoh
Chair, Selection Committee on the International Prize for Biology

  Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

  On behalf of the Selection Committee for the 28th International Prize for Biology, it gives me great pleasure to report on this year’s selection process.
The Selection Committee consisted of 19 members, including myself. Three 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 neurobiology. The committee distributed a total of 1,157 recommendation 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 55 recommendations in response. As some of these recommendations named the same individuals, the actual number of individuals recommended was 52, from 17 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. Joseph Altman of the United States of America to the Prize Committee as the recipient of the 28th International Prize for Biology.

  Dr. Altman was born in 1925 and is of American nationality. Since obtaining his doctorate from New York University in 1959, he has made substantial findings in neurobiology in his research work at Columbia University, New York University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Purdue University. He is currently Professor Emeritus at Purdue University.

  Until the second half of the twentieth century, it was believed that there were no neuron-generating stem cells in the adult mammalian brain, and that, once constructed, neural circuits could not be repaired after injury. In the 1960s Dr. Altman showed clearly, by labeling dividing cells with radioactive tracers and performing meticulous anatomical analyses, that neural precursor cells capable of dividing existed in the brains of adult rats and that neurogenesis did in fact persist. Further, he investigated the effects of ablating newborn neurons by X-irradiation, thereby demonstrating their potential importance in the expression of higher brain functions such as learning. For many years the significance of these revolutionary findings was not fully appreciated, but in the 1990s the phenomenon of adult neurogenesis was rediscovered in many mammals, including humans, and the validity of Dr. Altman’s research became clear. Today, the study of adult neurogenesis is seeing explosive growth, and topics such as its relationship with neuropsychiatric disorders and its physiological significance in the expression of higher brain functions are popular research subjects. Clinical applications are also anticipated in the area of regenerative therapy for brain damage and disease. Dr. Altman’s distinguished work has created a field of neuroscience and contributed greatly to its advancement.

  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. Altman’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. Joseph Altman and has bestowed upon him the 28th International Prize for Biology.
With this, I conclude my report on the process of selection.