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February 07, 2024

The Sixth CiRA Encouragement Award

On Monday, February 5, 2024, Program-Specific Researchers Drs. Hiroki Ono (Hirohide Saito Laboratory), Shunsuke Kawasaki (Hirohide Saito Laboratory), and Takumi Okubo (Yasuhiro Takashima Laboratory) were presented with the 6th annual CiRA Encouragement Award. This award, financed by the iPS Cell Research Fund, recognizes CiRA scientists under 40 years old for remarkable research achievements in life sciences.

Ono and Kawasaki developed a strategy to greatly expand the variety of protein-responsive mRNA switches by leveraging the CRISPR-Cas system as mRNA translational regulators and successfully developed artificial genetic circuits to execute complex logic computations in living cells. They demonstrated the applicability of this system also in iPS cells and thus is expected to help achieve precise control over iPS cell fate. For their dedication to this work, they were honored with this award.
(For details of their research, please refer to the following article: Establishing the basis for mammalian intracellular computing with mRNA switches)

Okubo successfully developed a method to induce primitive endoderm-like cells of the pre-implantation stage to construct a novel human embryo model. Using this approach, he successfully used genome editing and other techniques to manipulate the embryo models to clarify the molecular mechanisms underlying early human embryonic development. Studies on human embryonic development during the implantation stage have been difficult due to various technical, ethical, and legal issues, so the model Okubo constructed enables a brand new avenue of research. He was recognized with this award for his exceptional research achievements.
(For details of his research, please refer to the following article: Establishing a revolutionary model to study early human embryonic development)

During the award ceremony held in the CiRA auditorium and via Zoom, CiRA Director Jun Takahashi reiterated that CiRA's research activities have been supported by many donors to the iPS Cell Research Fund, saying, "I recognize the indispensable voluntary contribution by a great number of donors to this fund. I hope the awardees will bear their wishes and continue their hard work."

After receiving a certificate of recognition, a trophy, and a monetary prize, each of the three winners gave a short presentation on the research for which they received the award and answered questions from the participants at the event.

(From left) Jun Takahashi, Hiroki Ono, Shunsuke Kawasaki and Takumi Okubo
at the CiRA Encouragement Award ceremony

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