Shinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD
Director and professor,
Center for iPS Cell Research and Application
Kyoto University, Japan

Congratulations to Gibco Hero of the Month Dr. Yamanaka!

We were honored to interview the father of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), Shinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD and ask him about his journey and what he sees in the future for stem cell research.

  • Discovered Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells, 2006

  • Recognized as a "Person Who Mattered" in the Time Person of the Year edition of Time Magazine, 2007

  • Awarded the Kyoto Prize for reprogramming adult skin cells to pluripotential precursors, 2010

  • Awarded the Balzan Prize, 2010

  • Awarded the Wolf Prize in Medicine, 2011

  • Listed as one of the 15 Asian Scientists To Watch by Asian Scientist Magazine on 15 May 2011

When did you first get interested in science? What inspired you?
I started my professional career as an orthopedic surgeon and treated many patients with intractable diseases and injuries such as rheumatism and spinal cord injury. Realizing that there are many diseases that even talented surgeons and physicians cannot cure, I got interested in basic medical science to develop new drugs and therapies. 

What are three highlights of your scientific journey?
When I was a Ph.D. student at Osaka City University, I was assigned to perform an experiment to study the role of a blood protein named platelet-activating factor in lowering blood pressure in dogs. The hypothesis my boss gave was that giving an inhibitor of a lipid contained in PAF would prevent the blood pressure from going down. But my experiment showed an opposite result. I was so excited with the unexpected outcome and became more intrigued in research.

Another highlight came when I worked as a post-doctoral fellow at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease in San Francisco. During the four years starting from 1993, I had stimulating experiences, communicating with talented researchers, and encountered a study that led me to embryonic stem cell research.

The discovery of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells by my research group gave me a great opportunity to contribute to the development of new cures to intractable diseases and injuries. I strongly feel responsible for bringing the iPS cell technology to the clinic by advancing researches on understanding disease mechanisms, developing new drugs and conducting cell therapies. 

What is your future outlook on the next fifty years?
Our goal over the decade is to realize iPS cell-based applications, including the development of new drugs and conduct of clinical trials on a few patients with Parkinson’s disease, diabetes or blood diseases. We are working hard towards them. In the far future, I think that medical biology will advance at a more rapid pace than before, and we will see various new medical technologies that can contribute to improving the quality of life.

What is your expectation for Gibco?
Congratulations on the 50th anniversary of the foundation of Gibco. I hope that Gibco will continue to support research activities by supplying quality tools for cell culturing as it has done over the past 50 years.

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