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May 17, 2006
Dr. Hirano receives the Medal with Purple Ribbon

RCAI Deputy Director, Dr. Toshio Hirano, received the Medal with Purple Ribbon from the Emperor on May 17, 2006 during a ceremony held in the imperial palace. This medal is awarded for outstanding achievements in invention, mprovement, or creation in the arts and sciences. Dr. Hirano was recognized for his long-term contributions and outstanding achievements in immunology.

Dr. Hirano began his work in immunology in the 1970s. He discovered B cell differentiation factor, which was later named Interleukin-6 (IL-6), in the pleural effusion of patients of tuberculous pleuritis,. The purification of IL-6 took eight years of effort, and in 1986 he succeeded in cloning IL-6 cDNA and determined its entire sequence. He continued research on IL-6 and his numerous accomplishments include the identification of the IL-6 receptor, IL-6 signaling pathways, and the relationship between IL-6 and autoimmune diseases and B cell malignancies such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple myeloma.

Recently, Dr. Hirano's Cytokine Signaling Group discovered that zinc-dependent pathways play important roles in mast cell activation processes including degranulation and cytokine production. Their pioneering work on zinc and its transporters, in collaboration with Dr. Hiano's Laboratory of Developmental Immunology in Osaka University, is expected to develop into a new area of biology that may be involved in immune reactions, allergies, development, and cancer metastasis.

Figures: from left: Dr. Hiano, Mr. Kenji Kosaka (Minister of Education, Culture, Sports and Science) and Dr. Hirano's wife.

Figures: Medal with Purple Ribbon and the commendation certificate.