Japanese scientist receives award for molecular medicine 14. Nov. 2023

DAMM, short for Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine, which was established in 2003, recognizes the work of scientists who have achieved outstanding results internationally in the field of molecular medicine. In particular, the scientific activities that are recognized are the ones that make a significant contribution to the development of molecular medicine and whose results can be introduced and utilized in patient care.
“The scientific activities of the University of Debrecen have always been about putting ourselves on the map in an international scientific space where we can solve academic challenges in cooperation. These collaborations can only take place if we recognize the challenges that affect us most today and that the academic community needs to address. When this award was established, the leadership of our university at that time was prompted by the desire to recognize scientists who have contributed a lot to the development of humanity through their achievements in the field of molecular medicine. Molecular medicine is one of the top-priority disciplines at the University of Debrecen. I am quite convinced that the award and those who we award are also decisive for the international recognition of our university,” said László Csernoch, Vice Rector for Scientific Affairs, at the press conference held on Tuesday on the occasion of the award ceremony.
Candidates for receiving the award can be nominated by professors of the Faculty of Medicine or by previous laureates. From the group of the scientists nominated, a committee shortlists two individuals, one of whom the professors select by secret ballot. In recent years, the title has been awarded to leading figures in the field of life sciences, including several Nobel Prize-winning scientists, such as Katalin Karikó, research biologist and patent holder of synthetic mRNA-based vaccine technology. Shimon Sakaguchi is the 21st awardee. 

“We are really honored that another world-famous researcher has accepted our invitation. This recognition is also important for our faculty because it contributes to establishing active scientific relations with the laureates and their colleagues. Several of the previous awardees continue to conduct joint research with the members of our faculty, the results of which are published in top-quality scientific publications. We also host professional meetings, where our young employees also have the opportunity to develop through the knowledge and experience of the laureate,” said László Mátyus, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine.

This year's laureate, Professor Shimon Sakaguchi, a highly respected professor at Osaka University's Center for Immunology Research, is best known for discovering a type of white blood cell with a regulatory function, called regulatory T-lymphocytes (Tregs), and for clarifying their role in the immune system. He investigated the molecular basis of the formation and function of regulatory T cells. He pointed out that the absence or functional decrease of regulatory T cells responsible for immune response in the immune system is the cause of a number of immunological disorders, including autoimmune diseases. In addition, he discovered that increasing the number of regulatory T cells or strengthening their suppressive activity can prevent and treat autoimmune diseases and establish stable tolerance to transplanted organs, while reducing their number or suppressive activity can induce effective immunity against cancer. Consequently, these discoveries are best used in the treatment of autoimmune diseases and cancer.
"Professor Sakaguchi's findings may help us develop new medications to fight cancer and autoimmune diseases more effectively. The University of Debrecen's activity in the field of immunological research is indeed significant and, in recent years, several internationally recognized research groups have been established in this field. It is also from this point of view that it is important for us that local researchers and scientific communities can meet Professor Sakaguchi and learn from this world-leading researcher of immunology, which can contribute to further development of immunology in Debrecen,” added Zoltán Papp, Deputy Dean for Scientific Affairs at the Faculty of Medicine.

Professor Sakaguchi plays an active part in the organization and management of scientific research in Japan, holding and having held leading positions in a number of scientific organizations and bodies. He has been the recipient of several prestigious scientific awards and honorary doctorates. To date, Professor Sakaguchi has published more than 300 scientific publications, which have been cited more than 126,000 times.
“It is a great honor and recognition for me that the University of Debrecen has given me this award. It is an encouragement and it provides the necessary impetus for my further work on the path I have taken before. In the future, I will continue my research to obtain as much information as possible about regulatory T cells, so that professionals can use this information to achieve more significant results in medicine," said Shimon Sakaguchi.
Shimon Sakaguchi received the award physically on Tuesday at a ceremony in the venue called Aula of the University of Debrecen. Following the award ceremony, the distinguished professor gave a lecture titled Regulatory T Cells for Controlling Immunological Diseases, in which he presented his scientific achievements.

Press Center - CzA