Yoshihiro Kawaoka

Kawaoka Yoshihiro 250

Dr. Kawaoka has dedicated his career to the study of the pathogenesis and control of influenza and Ebola virus. His influenza work has led to the development of improved influenza vaccines and antiviral compounds, whereas his research on Ebola has provided systems that can be used to study every step of the viral life cycle and have a yielded a novel vaccine candidate. His findings have had a major impact on pandemic prevention, control measures and vaccine development. Dr. Kawaoka discovered the molecular basis for high pathogenicity of avian influenza viruses by demonstrating that modification of the cleavage site of hemagglutinin alone could attenuate highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses without affecting antigenicity. He also established methodology that allows the generation of influenza viruses entirely from plasmids. These seminal discoveries are used by the USDA, WHO, and the World Organization for Animal Health to develop H5N1 vaccines and by government agencies worldwide to rapidly identify lethal avian influenza viruses. He also identified the molecular mechanisms by which avian influenza viruses cross host species barriers and infect humans. In addition, Dr. Kawaoka identified determinants of the 1918 Spanish influenza virus and discovered the reason for its extreme virulence. He characterized the 2009 pandemic H1N1 virus and H7N9 avian viruses, providing timely information essential for pandemic preparation. To study Ebola virus, Dr. Kawaoka established another reverse genetics system, one of only two such systems worldwide, which he has provided to other BSL-4 facilities. This system allows the establishment of a biologically contained Ebola virus that lacks an essential viral gene, but replicates to high titers in helper cell lines; this system is being used to study all aspects of the viral life cycle and as a novel vaccine candidate. In recognition of his achievements, Dr. Kawaoka has been awarded the prestigious Robert Koch Award and the Medal of Honor from the Emperor of Japan. In 2013, he was elected as a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences. He served as Chair of the Virology Division for the International Union of Microbiological Societies, coordinating international activities of virological societies, including organizing the International Congress of Virology.

 

 

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