BY TINA SHELTON – Professor Emeritis Ryuzo “Yana” Yanagimachi, the UH Manoa researcher who laid the scientific foundation for lab-assisted human reproduction (in vitro fertilization), is the 2012 recipient of the Pioneer in Reproduction Research Leadership Award. The honor recognizes an outstanding scientist who has pioneered pathways of exploration in reproduction research.
“Yana”, in his typical modest fashion, responded to the scientists who selected him by saying, “It is my great honor to be recognized as a pioneer of reproductive biology. It is wonderful not only for me, but also good for our research group as well as the University of Hawaii.”
Yana, who will turn 84 this August, added, “Although I retired several years ago, our Institute and university are generous enough to let me keep my office and one small lab at my disposal.” Dr. Yanagimachi still goes to work at the Manoa lab virtually every day.
The pioneer of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and the creator of Intracytoplasmic sperm injection, Dr. Yanagimachi (ICSI) also was the first person to clone a mouse (1998), an achievement followed shortly thereafter by his team’s discovery of a new method for producing transgenic mammals. Yana became world-famous with that achievement, memorable because in doing so he created “glowing green mice.” That phenomenon was achieved by injecting a green fluorescent protein from jellyfish DNA into the mouse egg, which acted as a genetic marker, and — more famously — caused the mice to glow green when exposed to infrared light (1999).
The Board of Scientific Counselors of the Frontiers in Reproduction Program (FRP) selected Dr. Yanagimachi for the Pioneer Award. The FRP is holding its 15th annual symposium in June, in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, where Yana will deliver the keynote address.
The FRP is comprised of scientists from academic institutions around the country, who come together to teach a six-week long “Summer Symposium” to mentor young researchers. Yana, the founder of the UHM Institute for Biogenesis Research (IBR), has mentored a team of successors who continue his work at the institute, which is part of UH Manoa’s John A. Burns School of Medicine.