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Tasuku Honjo

Speaker:  Tasuku Honjo (Kyoto University) 

Tasuku Honjo is an Japanese immunologist who contributed to the discovery of mechanisms and proteins critical to the regulation of immune responses and whose work led to the development of novel immunotherapies against cancer. Honjo was recognized for his work with the 2018 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, and he shared this honor with American immunologist James P. Allison. Honjo is well known for his discovery of activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) that is essential for class switch recombination and somatic hypermutation. He has established the basic conceptual framework of class switch recombination starting from discovery of DNA deletion (1978). Dr. Honjo identified a series of key molecules involved in immune regulation, including IL-4, IL-5, SDF-1, and IL-2R α chain. Also appreciated is his seminal contribution to developmental biology by identification of RBP-J as the Notch signaling target. In addition, he discovered PD-1 (program cell death 1), a negative coreceptor at the effector phase of immune response and demonstrated that PD-1 inhibition contributes to cancer treatments. Anti-PD-1 cancer immunotherapy has been approved in US, EU, and Japan. This treatment revolutionalizes the cancer therapy and is considered to be equivalent to penicillin in infectious diseases.