Osamu Shimomura, PhD

Osamu Shimomura, PhD
Distinguished Scientist, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts; and Professor of Physiology Emeritus, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachussets

Osamu Shimomura, PhD | Class of 2013

A highly revered organic chemist and marine biologist who is often referred to as the most prominent expert on bioluminescent chemistry in the world, Dr. Shimomura significantly altered the future of molecular biology and cancer research with his discovery of green fluorescent protein (GFP), for which he was awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. His research on GFP began after his early doctoral studies on the isolation and purification of the bioluminescent compound, luciferin, and its activating enzyme, luciferase. The characterization of these two materials, as well as Dr. Shimomura’s eventual discovery of GFP, fueled the development of an array of essential laboratory techniques whose importance cannot be overstated. Notably, GFP tagging of proteins has driven major breakthroughs in molecular and cellular biology, allowing researchers to track protein and gene expression and cancer researchers worldwide to effectively and efficiently study such biologic processes as cellular growth, division, migration, and death.

Dr. Shimomura first studied pharmacy at the College of Pharmaceutical Sciences of Nagasaki Medical College, which was relocated near his home about 15 miles from Nagasaki, Japan, after its original site was destroyed in the second atomic bomb explosion in 1945. Although temporarily blinded by the blast, he went on to study for his doctorate in chemistry at Nagoya University where he became interested in what made the crushed remains of a type of crustacean glow when wet, an interest that led eventually to Stockholm and continues to benefit science.

Career Highlights

2010 Honorary Doctor of Science, Boston University
2010 Honorary Doctor of Science, Gakushuin University
2009 Honorary Doctor of Pharmaceutical Science, Nagasaki University
2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
2008 Japan Order of Culture Award
2006 Asahi Prize
2005 Emile Chamot Award
2004 Pearse Prize
1979 Discovery that GFP contains a Fluorophore in its Peptide Linkage
1965-1982 Senior Scientist, Princeton University
1962 Discovery of Aequorin and GFP
1960 PhD, Nagoya University