The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicineʻs Dr. Ryuzo Yanagimachi is one of three recipients of the prestigious 2023 Kyoto Prize. Dr. Yanagimachi is the winner in the Biotechnology and Medical Technology category for the impact he’s had on millions of families worldwide through his pioneering work on mammalian fertilization, which led to in vitro fertilization (IVF) advances, giving hope to couples who otherwise would be unable to have children.
Professor Yanagimachi says, “when I began working as a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. M. C. Chang (the father of mammalian in vitro fertilization), I was interested in analyzing the entire processes of mammalian fertilization.”
After becoming a faculty member of the University of Hawaiʻi, he and his team worked on every step of fertilization by using various animals and techniques.
“Microsurgery was one of the techniques we used to understand ‘hidden’ potentials of sperm and eggs. Many years later, clinicians found that microsurgical injection of a single sperm into an egg is most effective when there are male infertility issues. Although I was rarely directly involved in clinical investigations, I am very happy that some of the work we did played a role in bringing joy to many infertile couples,” he said.
Kyoto Prize officials wrote that Dr. Yanagimachi demonstrated a method for in vitro fertilization in mammals, expanded our insights into the fertilization process, and further developed the microinjection technology by innovating the intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). He has made significant contributions to the development of essential assisted reproductive technologies in modern society through both basic research and technological development.
Dr. Yanagimachi joined the University of Hawaiʻi in 1966. He was an Anatomy & Reproductive Biology professor at JABSOM and founded the Institute for Biogenesis Research in 2000. He directed the IBR until 2004. It remains one of the best places in the world to learn ICSI. He continued teaching until becoming emeritus in 2006. In addition to the Kyoto Prize, Dr. Yanagimachi won the 1996 International Prize for Biology, Japan’s highest scientific award, and the 1999 Carl G. Hartman Award, the Society for the Study of Reproduction’s greatest honor. He was inducted into the National Academy of Sciences in 2001.
The Kyoto Prize is an international award presented to individuals who have made significant contributions in the fields of science and technology, as well as the arts and philosophy. This internationally renowned award is presented by the Inamori Foundation and was born out of the sincere wish of Kazuo Inamori to “contribute to the progress of the future of humanity while maintaining a balance between the development of science and civilization and the enrichment of the human spirit.” Each laureate is presented with a diploma, a Kyoto Prize medal, and prize money of 100 million yen ($704,840 USD) per category.
Alongside Dr. Yanagimachi, Mathematician Elliott Lieb from Princeton University and artist Nalini Malani from Pakistan are the other 2023 Kyoto Prize winners.