Laureate Tasuku Honjo Moves Forward with Immunotherapy Cancer Research

  • Tasuku Honjo, 2014 Tang Prize Laureate in Biopharmaceutical Science
A- | A+

Tang Prize Laureate Tasuku Honjo officially began his five-year research grant project when he signed an agreement with Tang Prize Foundation representatives on October 5. Honjo's research plan, entitled "Improvement of PD-1 antibody cancer immunotherapy" will continue the work that won him the prize in Biopharmaceutical Science in 2014. Director of the Department of Planning and Development at the foundation Chang Herng-Yuh met with Honjo at his offices at Kyoto University for the signing. Honjo lauded the prize for its assistance to scientific research and said that he was greatly honored to have been recognized as one of its laureates in 2014.
After discovering PD-1 in 1992, Honjo and his group established PD-1 as an inhibitor regulator of the T cell response, and from there, as a viable mechanism for cancer therapy. It was not until 20 years later that immunotherapy was recognized as a successful and viable treatment when it landed on the cover of Science magazine as its Breakthrough of the Year for 2013.

The 2014 Tang Prize in Biopharmaceutical Science was awarded jointly to Honjo and another big name in immunotherapy, James P. Allison, who discovered the inhibitory mechanism CTLA-4 around the same time as Honjo. Therapies combining the discoveries of Allison and Honjo (anti-CTLA-4 and anti-PD-1) have dramatically improved long-term survival rates in cancer patients.

Honjo's project is one of six from the 2014 Tang Prize Grant. The NT$10 million grant is awarded to each of the laureates in addition to the standard cash prize of NT$40 million, and is apportioned according to a proposal provided by the laureates. The grant may be divided among any institutions or individuals of the laureate's choosing, and is meant to improve the research, education, and scholarship of the field in which the laureate has been awarded.