Saturday, March 19, 2011

Japan Prize Ceremony cancelled

The Board of the Japan Prize Foundation has reached a deliberate conclusion to call off a series of events that were planned to honor the 2011 Japan Prize laureates, given the circumstances in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit the northeastern coastal area of the Japanese main island on March 11.

There is no ceremony held but the Foundation is planning to hand the medal and certificate of the Japan Prize to the laureates directly; Dr. Dennis Ritchie and Dr. Ken Thompson in the field of "Information and Communication" and Dr. Tadamitsu Kishimoto and Dr. Toshio Hirano in the field of "Bioscience and Medical Science." The Foundation is also planning to invite them to the next year's ceremony as the Foundation's special guests where they would like to express Japan's celebration to their achievement.

Dennis Ritchie, Ph.D., Distinguished Member of Technical Staff Emeritus, Bell Labs, Alcatel-Lucent Inc., and Ken Thompson, Ph.D., Distinguished Engineer, Google Inc., are honored with the 2011 Japan Prize in information and communications for developing the operating system (OS), UNIX, in 1969 while researchers at Bell Labs. Compared to other operating systems prevailing around that time, their new and advanced OS was simpler, faster and featured a user-friendly hierarchical file system. UNIX was developed in conjunction with the programming language, C, which is still widely used for writing OS, and dramatically improved the readability and portability of UNIX source code. As a result, UNIX has come to be used by various systems such as embedded systems, personal computers, and super computers.

UNIX was also a major driving force behind the development of the Internet. University of California, Berkeley developed Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD), an extended version of UNIX that was implemented including the Internet protocol suite TCP/IP. The development was based on the sixth edition of UNIX that Bell Labs distributed along with its source code to universities and research institutions in 1975, which led to the beginning of an "open source" culture. BSD UNIX helped the realization of the Internet.

The 2011 Japan Prize in bioscience and medical science is awarded to two scientists from Osaka University, Tadamitsu Kishimoto, M.D., Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, and Toshio Hirano, M.D., Ph.D., Dean of Graduate School of Medicine, for their discovery of interleukin 6 (IL-6), a cell-signaling molecule in the immune system and its application in treating diseases. The scientists focused on the correlation between IL-6, inflammation and diseases, and were able to unravel the significant role of IL-6 in rheumatoid arthritis and other disease conditions. These discoveries led to the development of tocilizumab, an antibody drug used to treat autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and Castleman's disease by inhibiting the effect of IL-6. Tocilizumab was approved in Japan for treating rheumatoid arthritis in 1985, and has since been approved in more than 70 countries around the world, including the U.S.