Japan Prize

The Japan Prize is awarded by the Science and Technology Foundation of Japan (JSTF) to scientists from around the world whose ground-breaking achievements contribute to the progress of science and technology, as well as to the promotion of peace and prosperity for humanity. It is often referred to as the Japanese Nobel Prize: 88 prize winners from 13 countries have received it since it was awarded for the first time in 1985 - including many later Nobel Prize Laureates.


Svante Pääbo

Prof. Dr. Svante Pääbo

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig

The geneticist Svante Pääbo is awarded the Japan Prize for his research on human ancestry.

Svante Pääbo, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, is considered the founder of paleogenetics, a research discipline that deals with the analysis of genetic samples from fossils and prehistoric finds. Pääbo investigates which genetic changes in the course of the history of evolution make up modern man by comparing the DNA sequences of people living today, Neanderthals and other human ancestors. For his scientific work he will now be awarded the Japan Prize, which is worth 50 million yen (approximately 490,000 euros).


Emmanuelle Charpentier

Prof. Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier

Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, Berlin

Emmanuelle Charpentier from the Max Planck Institute of Infection Biology, Berlin, and Jennifer A. Doudna from the University of California, Berkeley, receive this year's Japan Prize for the development of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technique, a type of very efficient genetic 'scissors'. Adi Shamir, from the Weizmann Institute, Israel, is honoured for his pioneering research on cryptography.

The CRISPR-Cas9 system of bacteria can be used as an extremely precise tool to edit genetic material and study gene function, raising hope that CRISPR-Cas9 can be used to develop new treatment options for serious human diseases in the future. This discovery was a milestone for molecular biology, and has already won many prizes. Charpentier has received, amongst other, such prestigious awards as the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, Ernst Jung Prize for Medicine, the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine as well as the Paul-Ehrlich-und-Ludwig-Darmstaedter Prize.

The expectations for this technology, called genome editing, are incredibly high. The Max Planck Society appointed Charpentier in 2015. She is the Max Planck Society's third Japan Prize Laureate. Previously, Gerhard Ertl (1992) and Jozef Schell (1998) had already received the Japan Prize.

The cryptology expert and 2002 Turing prize winner Adi Shamir, from the Weinzmann Institute, Rehovot, also receives this year's prize in the field of “Electronics, Information and Communication”. Shamir developed the 'RSA cryptosystem', an innovative encryption technology, as well as mathematical methods, which enable an identification of individuals in the field of information security without the need to disclose the closures.


Jozef Schell †

Prof. Dr. Jozef Schell †

Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Köln

Prof. Dr. Jozef Schell received the Japan Prize together with Prof. Dr. Marc Van Montagu for the discovery that genes can be transferred into plants by the T-DNA of Agrobacterium tumefaciens.


Gerhard Ertl

Prof. Dr. Gerhard Ertl

Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society, Berlin

Prof. Dr. Gerhard Ertl received the Japan Prize for his contributions to the chemistry and physics of solid surfaces.

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