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2011 Japan Prize Press Conference


2011 (27th) Japan Prize Press Conference Welcome to the press conference of
the 2011 (27th) Japan Prize laureates. We would now like to announce the
2011 Japan Prize laureates. In the field of “Information and Communications”, it goes to Dr. Dennis M. Ritchie, Distinguished
Member of Technical Staff Emeritus at Bell Labs, and Dr. Ken L. Thompson,
Distinguished Engineer at Google Inc. In the field of “Bioscience and Medical Science”, It goes to Dr. Tadamitsu Kishimoto,
Professor Emeritus, Osaka University, and Dr. Toshio Hirano,
Dean of Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka University. Chairman Komiyama of the Selection Committee
will explain how the laureate were selected. I’ll now go over the history of laureate
selection for the 2011 Japan Prize. Two years ago, we asked about 13,000 scientists around
the globe for nominations and received back 645 nominations in total. The Selection Subcommittee for
each of the two fields performed rigorous evaluation on nominations
based on academic achievements and contributions to society. Candidates were then forwarded to
the Selection Committee for final decision. Chairman Miyahara of the “Information and Communications”
field Selection Subcommittee will explain the basis of Dr. Ritchie
and Dr. Thompson’s achievements. UNIX in a nutshell, is a manifestation of
a fast and light-weight operating system. In addition, the introduction of
hierarchical file-system greatly improved the usability
of the operating system. In 1975, the sixth edition UNIX and
its source code was widely distributed to universities and research institutes,
triggering a culture of sharing improved and enhanced
source codes among UNIX users that shaped the beginning of today’s
Open Source culture. In retrospect, many basic technologies
in field of Information have been conceived with UNIX as the basis,
most notably the Internet. It ia also said that the culture of
Internet was driven by UNIX users. These extraordinary achievements are
deemed most eminently deserving of the 2011 Japan Prize in the field of
“Information and Communications”. I would now like to invite
Dr. Thompson up onto the stage. UNIX was a product of research. It was created with no requirements,
no expectations or visions of profit, and It was done by an industrial laboratory that ran off a tax on telephones, so it had the same amount of
money every year. It didn’t have to prove anything. This is the laboratory of course. But far and beyond human ability to
plan or predict, UNIX has remained in the
bull’s eye or many years. Now that is… just impossible to decide what that is,
and that is serendipity, which has a lot to do with
whatever that’s happened to UNIX. As for Dr. Ritchie, he wasn’t able join us today unfortunately. Instead, he has sent us a
video message and here it is. UNIX began within a research group at
Bell Labs, and was initially intended for use by ourselves, not as a product. However, rather early on, it began to spread
to various projects internal to the Bell System, and then to be distributed to educational,
government, and commercial companies under license. UNIX is not an open-source system
as the term is understood today, however, its specifications have
always been open, in that anyone could implement the
software based on the specifications and of course this has happened
several times, most visibly today by Linux. So UNIX in one form or another
has been around for a long time. It’s one of the few software artifacts
to have lasted so long, much longer than any of us expected. Next, Chairman Asashima of the “Bioscience and Medical Science” field
Selection Subcommittee will explain the basis of Dr. Kishimoto
and Dr. Hirano’s achievements. The two doctors jointly
discovered Interleukin-6, which is a cytokine that
induces antibody production by B lymphocyte which plays a major role In the immune function. Most noteworthy was their discovery that high levels of IL-6 exists in the
joint fluid of rheumatoid arthritis patients, proving the significant role of IL-6 in
rheumatoid arthritis and other disease conditions. Their consistent achievements from
basic research to therapeutic development are deemed most eminently deserving of the
2011 Japan Prize given to honor contributions in the field of “Bioscience and Medical Science”. IL-6 is a molecule that induces
antibody production by B lymphocyte, discovered during our studies abroad
at Johns Hopkins University. We were very lucky that it turned out to be
a molecule of diverse physiological and pathological functions with
close relations to many diseases. I’ve always believed that true
medical research leads to improvements in diseases
diagnosis and treatments, without it being benefit oriented. It’s been said that our research on IL-6 will
abolish the need for wheelchairs among rheumatoid arthritis patients in 10 years,
and I’m absolutely delighted that our research has lead to helping many
people suffering from diseases. We have had the great fortune of
discovering IL-6 through our research on pathogenic mechanism and treatment
of autoimmune diseases. When I graduated 39 years ago, I never
imagined that our basic research would lead the development of medication
for a disease like rheumatoid arthritis. The point I want to stress is that
present-day medicine is built upon the findings of fundamental scientific
research of the last 50 or 100 years. We must contribute to the peace and
prosperity of mankind by acknowledging the importance of fundamental scientific research, and
engaging in scientific and technological development. I sincerely hope this prize will reaffirm the
importance of fundamental scientific research and set a vision for the young people.

Robin Kshlerin

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