Cumulina, the cloned mouse created by UH professor emeritus Ryuzo Yanagimachi, is shown in 1999 on her second birthday.
Biogenesis institute to expand a vision
A grant will continue the innovative work of Ryuzo Yanagimachi
STORY SUMMARY »
The National Institutes of Health want to continue University of Hawaii professor emeritus Ryuzo Yanagimachi's fertility research work with a large grant.
W. Steven Ward, interim director of the Institute for Biogenesis Research, says he could not disclose the amount of the grant, but it will support the facility on the Manoa campus and five young faculty members. "Yana's legacy is assured because of this grant," Ward said.
Yanagimachi garnered support from the state and foundations to start the biogenesis institute in 2000 after receiving international acclaim for developing the first cloned mice and transgenic green mice. /
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A huge grant is expected from the National Institutes of Health to continue University of Hawaii professor emeritus Ryuzo Yanagimachi's work at the Institute for Biogenesis Research, says interim Director W. Steven Ward.
Ward said he could not disclose the amount of the grant, still to be announced by the NIH, but it will support the facility on the Manoa campus and five young faculty members.
Ward said three were trained by "Yana," as the internationally renowned fertility researcher is known.
"Yana's legacy is assured because of this grant," he said.
COURTESY MICHAEL O'HARA
Renowned fertility researcher Dr. Ryuzo Yanagimachi was honored at his birthday party yesterday at the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine.
Yanagimachi garnered support from the state and foundations to start the biogenesis institute in 2000 after receiving international acclaim for developing the first cloned mice and transgenic green mice.
He was the institute's only faculty member during its struggling infancy, but now he is one of nine, most of whom have NIH funding, Ward said.
Officials and friends gathered at the John A. Burns School of Medicine yesterday to honor the former professor of anatomy and reproductive biology and celebrate his 80th birthday.
Dr. Jerris Hedges, dean of the medical school, said the "significant funding" anticipated from the NIH "will allow us to continue Yana's work for years to come."
More than 900 members of the Society for the Study of Reproduction, the world's largest scientific organization for reproductive biology, will meet in Kona Tuesday to next Friday in recognition of Yanagimachi's pioneering research.
A World Congress on Reproductive Biology also will hold an inaugural meeting there tomorrow to Monday, sponsored by the Society for the Study of Reproductive Biology and sister societies in Australia, the United Kingdom and Japan.
Yanagimachi and his colleagues developed the two key methods used worldwide to help people have babies: in-vitro fertilization, where the egg and sperm are joined outside the body, and intracytoplasmic sperm injection, where the sperm is injected into the egg by needle.
Dr. Thomas Huang said he was an NIH researcher in Yanagimachi's laboratory from about 1981 to 1985 when Dr. Philip McNamee approached him about starting a fertilization clinic at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children. McNamee is medical director at the Pacific In Vitro Fertilization Institute, and Huang is laboratory director.
"At that time it was risky to do that," Huang said. "The success rate was very low." He said he does not think he would have had the courage to set up the clinic without Yanagimachi. "I would call him when I was stuck."
"He contributed so much to our specialty in in-vitro fertilization," McNamee said, adding that he benefited personally. "Dr. Huang created my grandchildren."
Since 1985, Huang and McNamee said, about 2,500 babies have been born through in-vitro fertilization at the institute. Another 800 have been born since about 1994 using the sperm-egg injection method, which is helpful for infertile men, they said.
"Looking back over Yana's career," Huang said, "I see how basic science when done well is the basis for translation to a clinical setting. We could see each piece of the puzzle fall into place. ... It's an amazing story."
Mitch D'Olier, president and chief executive officer of the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, recalled the partnership with the Kosasa Family Foundation and state to establish the biogenesis institute.
He said Yanagimachi told him, "We need to make Hawaii a place that has a reputation for smart people." The institute is "aggregating smart people" and providing important "living-wage jobs," he said.
A friend told him his first experiment to increase fertility was "stupid," but he continued with more "stupid" experiments, Yanagimachi said. "I was just curious."
"Yesterday I dreamed I decided to live 50 more years," he said, smiling after blowing out candles on a birthday cake.
And what would he do with them?
He said he would learn more about "the mystery of life" and the function of cells to find clues to understanding and preventing diseases.