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Pathology Professor Named 2023 Keio Medical Science Prize Laureate

The award from Japan’s oldest private university recognizes researchers who have made an outstanding contribution to the field of medicine or the life sciences.

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University of California San Diego School of Medicine’s Napoleone Ferrara, MD, has been named a 2023 Keio Medical Science Prize Laureate. Awarded annually by Keio University, Japan’s oldest private university, the award recognizes outstanding and creative achievements in the field of medicine and life sciences, specifically contributions to scientific developments in medicine.

Blood vessels form a pipeline that delivers oxygen and nutrients to all organs in our bodies. However, how the vascular network spreads during development was unclear. Ferrara, Distinguished Professor of Pathology, first succeeded in explaining the molecular basis of this fundamental process through the discovery of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF), today recognized as the central player in the regulation of blood vessel growth (angiogenesis).

Napoleone Ferrara, MD
Napoleone Ferrara, MD, recognized for seminal contributions to the field of angiogenesis.

Ferrara developed a neutralizing antibody against VEGF and found that it stops angiogenesis in several pathological conditions, including cancer and eye diseases. At present, VEGF blockers are routinely used as a therapeutic option for various human cancers and represent the first choice for treating age-related macular degeneration, the major cause of adult blindness. The fundamental knowledge originating from his basic research pioneered a number of recent advances in medical science.

“It is a great honor to be an awardee of the 2023 Keio Medical Science Prize,” said Ferrara. “I am delighted to accept on behalf of my colleagues and collaborators. I was fortunate to discover over 30 years ago vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Studying the VEGF pathway led me to a journey of scientific discovery and clinical translation that resulted in advances in cancer therapy and unprecedented vision preservation in patients with age-related macular degeneration and other blinding disorders.”

An international award, the Keio Medical Science Prize aims to promote worldwide advances in medicine and the life sciences, encourage the expansion of researcher networks throughout the world, and contribute to the well-being of humankind. Each year academics and researchers from around the world are invited to nominate a candidate. Laureates are then selected through a rigorous review process by 90 Japanese academics from both within and outside of Keio University.

An award ceremony and commemorative lectures will be held on November 9, 2023 at the Keio University School of Medicine, located in Tokyo, Japan. The events will be live streamed globally online.

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