The 2018 Keio Medical Science Prize Laureate

Feng Zhang, Ph.D.

James and Patricia Poitras Professor of Neuroscience, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Core Institute Member, The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

Reasons for Selection and His Major Achievement:

Development of CRISPR/Cas system in mammalian cells and application for medical science

The CRISPR/Cas system has greatly facilitated our ability to make precise changes to the genomes of living cells, and has rapidly become one of the most powerful and indispensable functional genomics tools. Multiple research groups contributed to the elucidation of the molecular mechanisms underlying CRISPR/Cas systems. It was Dr. Feng Zhang who first used the CRISPR/Cas system to edit a mammalian genome in January 2013. Since that time, he has led the gene editing field in two critical directions: advancing our understanding of CRISPR/Cas biology, and developing a versatile CRISPR toolbox. Dr. Zhang’s contributions in these areas are immeasurable, as the ability to precisely edit the genome of a living cell holds enormous potential to accelerate life science research, improve biotechnology, and potentially treat human disease. Dr. Zhang has also trained many researchers in the use of CRISPR/Cas technology through direct education and by sharing CRISPR/Cas components with academic laboratories around the world to help accelerate global research aimed at benefiting human health.




2000 – 2004

A.B., Chemistry and Physics, Harvard College, Cambridge, MA

2004 – 2009

Ph.D., Chemistry, Stanford University, Stanford, CA



1997 – 1999

Research Assistant with John P. Levy, Ph.D.

Human Gene Therapy Research Institute, Des Moines, IA

2000 – 2001

Research Assistant with Don C. Wiley, Ph.D.

Dept. of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University,

Cambridge, MA

2002 – 2004

Research Assistant with Xiaowei Zhuang, Ph.D.

Dept. of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University,

Cambridge, MA

2004 – 2009

Graduate Student with Karl Deiseroth, Ph.D.

Department of Bioengineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA

2009 – 2010

Junior Fellow, Harvard Society of Fellows, Cambridge, MA

2011 –

Core Member, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

Investigator, McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT

W. M. Keck Career Development Professor in Biomedical Engineering,

Departments of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Biological Engineering,

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA

2015 -

Robertson Investigator, New York Stem Cell Foundation


Associate Professor (with tenure) of Neuroscience and Biological Engineering, MIT, Cambridge, MA


James and Patricia Poitras Professor in Neuroscience at MIT


Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Major Honors




Canada Gairdner International Award


Tang Prize


Blavatnik Award for Young Scientists – National Award Winner


Albany Medical Center Price in Medicine and Biomedical Research


Lemelson-MIT Prize


Comments from Prof. Zhang

I am greatly honored and humbled to receive the Keio Medical Science Prize, which has been awarded to many brilliant scientists over the years. Having the work that my team and I have done to develop genome editing tools recognized in this way is an incredible distinction, and it inspires us to do even more to find ways to improve human health. On behalf of all the scientists that have contributed to this discovery, thank you.

Prof. Feng Zhang
Masashi Yanagisawa

The 2018 Keio Medical Science Prize Laureate

Masashi Yanagisawa,M.D. Ph.D.

Director and Professor, International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine (WPI-IIIS), University of Tsukuba

Reasons for Selection and His Major Achievement:

Elucidation of sleep control mechanisms and applications in drug discovery

Dr. Masashi Yanagisawa has made pioneering advances in understanding the mechanisms that control sleep, and his research has contributed to the discovery of new drugs. In 1991, Dr. Yanagisawa discovered the novel neurotransmitter orexin, an endogenous ligand for orphan G protein-coupled receptors. On further study, he found that orexin controls the sleep/wake cycle; mice with the orexin gene deleted exhibited symptoms of sleeping disorders, such as narcolepsy. Orexin receptor antagonists have since been developed and marketed by pharmaceutical companies as anti-insomnia medicines. Dr. Yanagisawa has also identified new sleep control genes using mouse forward genetics methods. A deeper understanding of the molecular basis of sleep control, may lead to new breakthroughs in the development of treatments for sleep disorders, and the contribution of Dr. Yanagisawa to this field merits international recognition.




/Proffessional Appt.



Born in Tokyo, Japan


M.D. (summa cum laude), University of Tsukuba


Ph.D. in Medical Sciences, University of Tsukuba

1988 – 1989

Postdoctoral fellow, Department of Pharmacology, University of Tsukuba

1989 – 1991

Assistant Professor of Pharmacology, University of Tsukuba

1991 – 1991

Assistant Professor of Pharmacology, Kyoto University School of Medicine

1991 – 1996

Associate Professor of Molecular Genetics; Associate Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas (UTSW)

1996 – 2014

Professor of Molecular Genetics, UTSW; Investigator, HHMI

1998 – 2014

The Patrick E. Haggerty Distinguished Chair in Basic Biomedical Science, UTSW

2001 – 2007

Director, Yanagisawa Orphan Receptor Project (JST/ERATO)

2010 – 2014

Professor and Director, FIRST program, University of Tsukuba

2012 – Present

Professor and Director, International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine (WPI-IIIS), University of Tsukuba

2014 – Present

Adjunct Professor of Molecular Genetics, UTSW

Major Honors




The Tsukahara Memorial Award, The Brain Science Foundation


Elected Member, National Academy of Sciences


Outstanding Scientific Achievement Award, Sleep Research Society


Medal with Purple Ribbon, Government of Japan


The Asahi Prize, Asahi Shimbun Foundation


Comments from Prof. Yanagisawa

I am truly honored to receive the prestigious Keio Medical Science Award and feel humbled going through the prominent list of previous laureates. My achievements would not have been possible without the teamwork of my lab members and esteemed collaborators and I would like to accept this award on behalf of my entire team. Looking back, I realize that exploratory research has always been my style ever since the start of my career. I went into the field of sleep research not because of my own planning but through simple observations of experimental phenomena. From here on out, I plan to remain free and unbiased, asking hard questions and exploring the scientific mysteries that lie before us


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