Acceptance Speech – Rome, 19.11.2010


Shinya Yamanaka

2010 Balzan Prize for Stem Cells: Biology and Potential Applications

For the discovery of a method to transform already differentiated cells into cells presenting the characteristics of embryonic stem cells.

Mr. President of the Italian Republic,
Chairmen of the Balzan Foundation,
Ladies and Gentlemen, 

It is a tremendous honour to receive the 2010 Balzan Award. I would like to sincerely express my utmost gratitude to both the Balzan Foundation and to the General Prize Committee. 

Several years ago, I contributed an essay to a Japanese newspaper. At that time I wrote “Science is a process which allows us to remove multiple layers of veils which are covering the truth. When scientists remove one veil, they often end up finding another new veil. However, when a lucky scientist removes a certain veil, then he is sometimes able to suddenly find the truth. This lucky scientist then publishes a paper in a prestigious journal and thereafter becomes widely acclaimed. However, we should always remember that the uncovering of each veil is equally important. It is therefore not fair if only such lucky scientists are praised”. 

Upon humbly accepting the Balzan award, I would like to stress that the key point to my previous essay still remains valid today. The generation of iPS cells is based on the findings of numerous scientists in the field of nuclear reprogramming, as well as countless researchers in many other related fields. Since our initial report on iPS cells, many scientists have been tirelessly working to find new breakthroughs and are now advancing this technology at a surprising speed.

I therefore humbly accept today’s award on behalf of the many scientists who have contributed to this technology, and for my colleagues, fellows and students, who as a team ultimately made it possible for us to succeed in creating iPS cells. iPS cell technology is still in its infancy. Its potential use and applications in medicine are enormous, but there are also many challenges which need to be overcome before it can be successfully applied to the discovery of new drugs and regenerative medicine. It is hard to predict what will happen fi ve years from now. Both I and all of my colleagues will continue to do our best to promote the medical and pharmaceutical applications of iPS cell technology. 

Finally, I would like to wholeheartedly thank my colleagues, my friends, and my family for their continuous support, without whom I could never have had the good fortune to be with you here today.

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