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ActivitiesAssistant Professor Sakoda wins “The UBE Foundation Watanabe Memorial Award” 2014.06.24

Assistant Professor (tenure track) Yukimi Sakoda of the Department of Immunology, Applied Medical Engineering Science at the Graduate School of Medicine has won the 54th UBE Foundation Academic Incentive Awards / Watanabe Memorial Award, and was presented with the award at a presentation ceremony held in Ube City on June 11. The UBE Foundation is a public interest incorporated foundation which has progressively taken over the operations of the Watanabe Memorial Fund, which was established in 1959. To date, the Foundation has granted Academic Incentive Awards to 261 researchers, with the aim of “promoting academic research in Japan, enriching research facilities, supporting people who aspire to become academic researchers, and thereby contributing to the development of academic culture.” This time, Academic Incentive Awards were given to ten researchers, but the Watanabe Memorial Award which Assistant Professor Sakoda has won is granted to only one person chosen from among the Academic Incentive Award nominees. Assistant Professor Sakoda’s award-winning theme was “Functional analysis of co-signaling molecule HVEM in the mechanism of autoimmune uveitis pathogenesis.” Autoimmune uveitis is a type of autoimmune disease in which a functional disorder of the patient’s immune system causes it to attack his or her own cells and tissues. It is a refractory disease that is also a major cause of juvenile blindness resulting from inflammation of the uvea which surrounds the eyeball. Currently, steroids and immunosuppressants are used to treat it, but since their effectiveness is low, many cases of recurrence have been reported, and there is an accompanying risk of serious side effects such as infection and glaucoma, there has been increasing demand for a more disease-specific treatment with fewer side effects. This research focuses on a group of immunoregulatory molecules called “co-signaling molecules,” and aims to explore new treatments for autoimmune uveitis by clarifying how these molecules function on the retina and how the signals transmitted by them are involved in the onset of disease. The work led by Assistant Professor Sakoda which brought together immunology (basic studies) and ophthalmology (clinical studies) has received wide recognition. Yamaguchi University is promoting translational research (bridging research which connects basic studies with clinical applications) in medical fields. Starting from this fiscal year, a “Translational Research Center for Refractory Disease” was launched as one of the initiatives (new pump-priming projects) which aim to produce world-class research at Yamaguchi University. Further developments on Professor Sakoda’s theme are also anticipated as a part of these efforts. News of the presentation of the award was reported in the newspapers, along with scenes from the ceremony. (The June 12, 2014 editions ofThe Yamamaguchi Shimbun and Ube Nippo )