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Susumu Tonegawa

Susumu TonegawaBorn: 6-Sep-1939
Birthplace: Nagoya, Japan

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: Asian
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Scientist

Nationality: Japan
Executive summary: Antibody production and diversity

Molecular biologist Susumu Tonegawa discovered the genetic mechanisms of antibodies. There are known to be millions of different antibodies in the human immune system, all generated by only about 100,000 genes; Tonegawa deduced that this remarkable diversity of human antibodies springs from a small number of gene fragments, which are naturally rearranged at random in myriad different combinations, to generate different antibodies. In 1987, Tonegawa was awarded the highest honor in science, the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology.

In 2006, he was involved in an academic scandal at MIT, sparked by an email he sent to Alla Karpova, a young neuroscientist whom he perceived as a potential rival. In the note, Tonegawa was cordial, even complimentary, but stated that if Karpova was hired as junior faculty at MIT he would not collaborate with her, and his research group would "be very reluctant" to interact with her. Karpova found work elsewhere, and an investigation by university faculty found that Tonegawa's note was "inappropriate." He resigned his administrative post at MIT, but the university said he had not been asked to do so, and he retained his professorship.

Father: Tsutomu Tonegawa (industrial engineer)
Mother: Miyoko Masuko Tonegawa
Wife: Kyoko (m., div.)
Wife: Mayumi (m. Sep-1985)

    High School: Hibiya High School, Tokyo, Japan (1959)
    University: BS Chemistry, Kyoto University (1963)
    Scholar: Molecular Biology, Kyoto University (1963-64)
    University: PhD Molecular Biology, University of California at San Diego (1969)
    Scholar: Molecular Biology, University of California at San Diego (1969-71)
    Scholar: Immunology, Basel Institute for Immunology (1971-81)
    Professor: Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1981-)
    Administrator: Director of Neuroscience Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1994-2006)

    Fulbright 1970
    Lasker Award 1987
    Nobel Prize for Medicine 1987
    Dean for America
    Salk Institute for Biological Studies


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