SHIMOMURA, OSAMU / Chemistry / Researchers

International Center for Scientific Research




Senior scientist emeritus and Corporation member at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), Woods Hole, MA, USA.

Research interests

Osamu Shimomura was the first person to isolate GFP and to find out which part of GFP was responsible for its fluorescence. His meticulous research laid the solid foundations on which the GFP revolution was built. In 1960, shortly after he arrived in Princeton from Japan, Shimomura started studying the bioluminescence of the crystal jellyfish, Aequorea victoria.

Dr. Shimomura was an MBL senior scientist from 1982-2001, prior to his retirement. He first noticed a green fluorescing molecule in the jellyfish Aequorea in 1961, while he was a researcher at Princeton University. He patiently extracted the molecule from 10,000 specimens that he collected in Friday Harbor, Puget Sound, purified it, and identified it as a protein. The protein, Dr. Shimomura reported in 1962, fluoresces green when hit with ultraviolet light. Today, GFP is a guiding star for biochemists, medical scientists, and other researchers. With the aid of GFP, researchers have developed ways to watch processes that were previously invisible, such as the development of nerve cells in the brain or how cancer cells spread.

Prizes and awards

Dr. Shimomura has been awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery of green fluorescent protein (GFP), one of the most important tools in contemporary science and medicine for illuminating life at the microscopic level. He shared the prize with Martin Chalfie of Columbia University, New York, and Roger Y. Tsien of University of California, San Diego.

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