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, 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).
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.