Nobel Prizes and Laureates

Nobel Prizes and Laureates

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2016
Yoshinori Ohsumi

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Yoshinori Ohsumi - Interview

"Still we have so many questions"

Telephone interview with Yoshinori Ohsumi following the announcement of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 3 October 2016. The interviewer is Adam Smith, Chief Scientific Officer of Nobel Media.

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[Yoshinori Ohsumi]: Moshi, Moshi, Yoshinori speaking.

[Adam Smith]: Hello, Professor Ohsumi. My name is Adam Smith. I'm calling from the official website for the Nobel Prize.

YO: Ah ha, yeah..

AS: First of all, our congratulations on the award of the Nobel Prize.

YO: Thank you so much. Yes, I was surprised.

AS: [Laughs] How did you hear the news?

YO: I had a call from Thomas Perlmann.

AS: Yes, Secretary of the Nobel Committee, yes indeed.

YO: Yeah, Nobel Assembly.

AS: Nobel Assembly, yes. And where were you when you received the news?

YO: I was in my lab.

AS: And your first reaction?

YO: I heard that, single only, me! It was also a surprise for me.

AS: It's true, because it's rare that they give the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to just a single Laureate. What do you think this says about the role of the single researcher these days?

YO: That's my real surprise because so many people are now working in the autophagy field.

AS: Autophagy is a huge area. But it's not…

YO: Yeah, recently.

AS: Recently, exactly.

YO: Just recently I think.

AS: Very largely because of your work.

YO: Yes, it's so, developed fast, yeah. When I started my work, probably every year 20 or less papers appeared on autophagy. Now more than 5,000 or something like that. It's a huge change within probably these 15 years or so.

AS: A real explosion.

YO: I actually started more than 27 years ago.

AS: It was a good choice of field.

YO: Yeah, it was lucky. Yeah, yeast was a very good system and autophagy was a very good topic to work. Still we have so many questions. Even now we have more questions than when I started.

AS: Once again it underlines the power of yeast as an experimental model.

YO: Yeah.

AS: You can do so much with yeast. And does it surprise you how similar yeast is to ourselves?

YO: I believe there are fundamental functions of the cells should be conserved from yeast to mammals. So that's my belief. But of course vacuole is different from lysosome, but I thought that most fundamental mechanisms must be conserved. That was my assumption when I started my work.

AS: You sound as if you're still in a slight state of shock.

YO: Yeah, mmm.

AS: And will you be coming to Stockholm in December to receive your award?

YO: Yeah, yeah.

AS: Wonderful. Well we very much look forward to meeting you then and to talking further.


AS: Thank you very much indeed for speaking to us now.

YO: Thanks so much.

AS: Congratulations again and we wish you a wonderful day.


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