February 7, 2004
The government on Friday chose a British molecular
biologist and Nobel laureate to head a new graduate
school in natural sciences that will be set up in
Sydney Brenner, 77, agreed to accept the post during
an early January meeting in the United States with
Toshimitsu Motegi, state minister in charge of issues
relating to Okinawa and the disputed Russian-held
islands off Hokkaido, officials said.
The government will discuss the terms of employment
with Brenner, the officials said.
Currently serving as a research professor at the Salk
Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, Brenner
is vice chairman of the ad hoc committee on the
establishment of the Okinawa school.
The government says it hopes to make the graduate
school, the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology
in the village of Onna in northern Okinawa, the best
research and learning institute in the world.
The government had been looking for an overseas Nobel
Prize winner to lead and represent the school, which is
to be established as a state-sponsored project in fiscal
The project, unveiled in 2001, was conceived to boost
Japan's competence in basic research and to promote the
economy in the prefecture, which lags behind the
mainland in terms of infrastructure development.
Under the project, a preparatory entity will open a
research laboratory in fiscal 2005. It plans to turn the
lab into a graduate school once the number of
researchers reaches about 50.
The government plans to draw the majority of faculty
members and students to the school from abroad. The
school will focus on biotechnology and other related
disciplines, while the courses will be offered in
Brenner was awarded one-third of the Nobel Prize in
physiology or medicine in 2002 for his pioneering 1970s
study focusing on how specific genes regulate organ
He shared the prize with H. Robert Horvitz, a U.S.
scientist, and John E. Sulston, another Briton.
Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine said in a statement
Friday that he was "filled with joy" over the
Brenner is "not only a superb scientist but also
has a friendly personality," Inamine said.
"Okinawa Prefecture will do its best to welcome him
as the president of the school."
The Japan Times: Feb. 7, 2004
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