KITASATO UNIVERSITY

  • THE KITASATO INSTITUTE
  • KITASATO UNIVERSITY

People

Satoshi Ōmura

Honoring and respecting his predecessors, he searched for ways to contribute to public welfare through "Research Management"

International diplomacy of technology

There is an innovative spirit at Kitasato, always striving to discover new things and apply them to improve society. Currently, Omura's research group has initiated the "NEXT Avermectin" project. Thanks to Ōmura's vision and leading role, collaborative research is being conducted with The Oswaldo Cruz Foundation of Brazil in a joint-effort to find cures for Chagas' disease (very prominent in Brazil), Leishmaniasis and Schistosomiasis, enabling multidisciplinary interactions between researchers from both continents. From international interaction to international impact, the driving factor for overseas collaboration mostly stems from the success of avermectin. A recent example of this reality is "ME5343", an insecticide for agricultural use (to exterminate aphids), jointly produced with Meiji Seika Pharma Co.,Ltd. The Japanese commercial partner will take charge of domestic distribution, and Germany's chemical manufacturing company BASF will be responsible for international marketing.

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The next generation of academic-industrial alliances 

"Development of useful chemicals originating from microorganisms in an important approach to the dundamental philosophy; do what is Kitasato-like and what is only possible at Kitasato," comments Professor Toshiaki Sunazuka from the Kitasato Institute for Life Sciences, one of Ōmura's successors and one of his former students. Working under Ōmura's coordination, he strives to continue the productive research and development pioneered by his mentor. Just as Ōmura directed his focus overseas, "collaborating with researchers and pharmaceutical companies overseas is a critical component for success," says Sunazuka. Taking on a prominent role in the next generation of research and development, Sunazuka has been entrusted to drive forward research on Macrolides to find new useful products. By combining expertise in organic synthetic chemistry with exploration of naturally occurring microorganisms, he seeks to develop new medical cures and treatments to combat inflammatory diseases.

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Picture : Shogo Takayanagi (Left) and Hiroyasu Uchida (Right). They have known Ōmura for 60 years. Picture : Ōmura started playing golf after he became ill from over-working and, became a 5 handicap player.

Everything stems from developing relationships

Ōmura has always treasured novel encounters and surprises everyone with his wide circle of friends and acquaintances. The winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Barry Sharpless is one of them. It was only one month before receiving the prize that he gave a lecture at a KMC seminar. He was invited to the Max Tishler Memorial Seminar sponsored by Ōmura and visited Japan again for a meeting of a joint research project that he proposed and has since hosted several graduate researchers from Ōmura's group. In December of 2011, Ōmura was surprised by a visit from two old friends. They were classmates from the graduating year of 1954 from Nirasaki High School. During his high school years, "Ōmura was very athletic and popular, but he wasn't so studious," laughs Shogo Takayanagi (who now runs a consulting office in Saitama City). Hiroyasu Uchida (former commissioner of the Agency for Cultural Affairs, and Managing Director at the Educational Foundation Nikaido Gakuen, who had moved to Yamanashi from Tokyo) comments, "We were in separate classes, but somehow we got along." Both agreed that, "Ōmura hasn't changed at all." "I can tell you that he wouldn't be here if it wasn't for his mom and his wife," smiles Takayanagi. Even though Ōmura may not verbalize it, he must have the same feeling deep down, he adds. Nodding in agreement with Takayanagi's comment, Uchida remembers the early days in Yamanashi, "we had to live a tough life because the social climate was so strict. I'm sure it influenced our lives in many ways." When Ōmura decided on attending Yamanashi University, Takayanagi thought that he would probably become a science teacher or a local village head. However, Ōmura had suddenly exhibited "extreme focus and persistence, nearing a level of insanity." Uchida observed and sees Ōmura's foundation as a researcher in that change of approach. "Louis Pasteur, the world-renowned microbiologist, famously expressed that 'chance favours the prepared mind'. I would like to continue my efforts with humbleness, and pioneer new fields of study", Ōmura relates. As a researcher, a professor, and a entrepreneur, Ōmura has always been consistent, never deviating from his beliefs. We have yet to witness what new developments await beyond his smile.

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Creating new sites for "Learning and Art

Ōmura has long believed that art and science both play a vital role in individual and social development. With a fund that he provided in is home prefecture in Yamanashi in 1995, the Yamanashi Academy of Sciences was established to help drive forward and accelerate the ability to bring science to bear and find ways to improve all aspects of social development. From the viewpoint that a full range of ideas and technology will be needed and that all sectors of society should contribute – especially the young - he devised a series of seminars and encouraged ways and means of information exchange in elementary, middle, and high school students. Furthermore, in 2007, he invested his personal assets to establish the Nirasaki Ōmura Art Museum, which focuses on and displays art by female artists, predominantly Japanese, that he acquired through his continuing role as a leading patron of the arts in Japan.
"People create Yamanashi, and Yamanashi creates Japan. I want to dream with the children, support their dreams and help them to come true," Ōmura affirms.

  • Picture_1: It is Yamanashi Academy of Sciences' responsibility to provide an environment to appreciate chemistry
  • Picture_2: Both the Yatsugatake and Mount Fuji can be seen from Nirasaki Omura Art Museum
  • Picture_3: Taken in the "Keisetsu Dorm," which is his remodeled home. Periodically, he invites his students to come over and discuss various topics while eating and sleeping together.

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Professer

Satoshi Ōmura

Satoshi Ōmura is President Emeritus of the Kitasato Institute and Professor Emeritus at Kitasato University Besides his posts at the Kitasato Institute and University, Ōmura is Max Tishler Professor of Chemisrty at Wesleyan University (USA) and holds key posts as President of Joshibi University of Art and Design and President of the Yamanashi Academy of Sciences. He is also a Member of the Japan Academy
Website: http://www.satoshi-omura.info/

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