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Nobel laureate Honjo to set up fund for young researchers using prize, patent money

Nobel laureate Tasuku Honjo. (Mainichi)

KYOTO -- Tasuku Honjo, winner of the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, disclosed on Oct. 2 that he intends to set up a fund to support young researchers in the field of life sciences.

The Nobel laureate plans to create the fund using his prize money from the prestigious award, along with royalty from a patent for an anti-cancer drug developed from his research.

Honjo, a distinguished professor at Kyoto University's Institute for Advanced Study, made the revelation in a one-on-one interview with the Mainichi Shimbun. He said he intends to expand the fund to the tune of 100 billion yen eventually.

"With 100 billion yen and annual interest of 4 percent on the fund, you can support 40 researchers a year (with 100 million yen per person)," explained the researcher. "The amount is small compared to the national budget, but I want to throw in my two cents' worth."

The professor decided to offer financial support for young researchers focusing on basic studies in life sciences because the financial and other conditions surrounding those scientists are deteriorating.

Honjo plans to use the about 57.5 million yen he will receive for winning the Nobel Prize as seed money for a fund to be established at the university. He wants the fund to be at the institution because the "PD-1" protein, which enabled the development of Opdivo immunotherapy medicine to treat cancer and made him a Nobel prize winner, "was born at Kyoto University," he said.

Honjo also intends to feed into the fund future revenue from his patent on the anti-cancer medication developed by Ono Pharmaceutical Co. based in the western Japan city of Osaka.

(Japanese original by Ryo Watanabe and Shinpei Torii, Osaka Science & Environment News Department; and Mai Suganuma, Kyoto Bureau)

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