Telephone interview with Shinya Yamanaka following the announcement of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 8 October 2012. The interviewer is Nobelprize.org's Adam Smith.
[Shinya Yamanaka] Hello
[Adam Smith] Hello, may I speak to Professor Yamanaka please?
[SY] Yes, speaking.
[AS] Oh hello, this is Adam Smith calling from the Nobel Prize website in Stockholm. We have a traditional of recording very short interviews with new Nobel Laureates. Would you be able to speak for just a very few minutes?
[AS] Thank you. First of all, our sincere congratulations on the award of the Nobel Prize.
[SY] Oh, thank you very much. It is a tremendous honour to me. Especially I heard that I am going to share the prize with Dr. John Gurdon, so I feel more honoured, because I respect him a lot.
[AS] He established the principle of gene conservation in differentiated cells, half a century ago. And so there was this very long run up then very rapidly you have transformed the field by creating induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells.
[SY] Yes, well I was able to initiate my project because of his experiments fifty years ago. Actually, he published his work in 1962. And that was the year when I was born. So I really feel just great, feel honoured.
[AS] There's a lovely symmetry about that. And it shows the progress of science, and one can't be too rushed in expecting things to happen.
[AS] And indeed, it's the fiftieth anniversary of your birth and of his publications.
[SY] Oh yes exactly. Yes. I just turned out to be fifty.
[AS] Congratulations on that also, then.
[SY] Thank you very much.
[AS] May I ask, what were you doing when the call from Stockholm came?
[SY] Well actually I was at home. I was doing some housework. So I was very surprised.
[AS] So you were actually doing some housework, you were cleaning the house or something?
[SY] Yes, exactly. So I didn't expect at all.
[AS] Can you recall your initial reaction to the call?
[SY] Well, so I was kind of alarmed by my secretary, who is still at my office. So she got a call from Stockholm, and asked about my phone number. So she kind of gave me an alert. But still, you know, I was not sure at all. So when I received the call, I was surprised. Almost, you know, I just thought wow, it's very ... a phonecall from Stockholm. I just couldn't believe it.
[AS] That's lovely. That's very nice. Indeed it hasn't been long. It was only in 2006 that you created the first iPS cells, so it hasn't been long.
[SY] So I strongly feel that this is, that I am able to receive this award because of John Gurdon and also many other researchers in the field. This field has a long history, starting with John Gurdon. So I feel very lucky. I may have played some important role in this long history, but it was not myself who initiated this field. So that's my feeling right now.
[AS] I understand and it's so nice that the two of you are tied together by the award and will be in Stockholm together in December to accept it.
[SY] Yes, that's great, yes.
[AS] When you come to Stockholm we have a longer chance, happily, to interview you and so talk more.
[AS] But I just wanted ask you one final question, which was what your greatest hopes for stem cells technologies are at the moment? What do you hope will be the first benefit?
[SY] Well, I will bring this technology to clinics. I really want to help as many patients as possible. As you may know, I started my career as a surgeon 25 years ago. But it turned out that I am not talented as a surgeon. So I decided to change my career, from clinics to laboratories. But I still feel that I am a doctor, I am a physician, so I really want to help patients. So my goal, all my life, is to bring this technology, stem cell technology to the bedside, to patients, to clinics.
[AS] Thank you. And I understand that iPS cells will, in fact, be going into the clinic for trials next year for the first time.
[SY] Yes, indeed. Yes.
[AS] Okay. Well, thank you very much indeed. And I wish a lovely evening of celebration.
[SY] Okay, thank you so much
[AS] It was a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you. Congratulations again.
[SY] Thank you very much. Bye bye.
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