New honorary doctorates in medicine and pharmacy

8 October 2012

Björn Ekström, previously with the Olink company, the science journalist Jan-Olov Johansson, and Professor John Lambris have been selected to receive honorary doctorates at the Faculty of Medicine. At the Faculty of Pharmacy the new honorary doctor is Yuichi Sugiyama, head of Sugiyama Laboratory at RIKEN Innovation Center in Yokahama, Japan.

Faculty of Pharmacy:
Professor Yuichi Sugiyama is head of Sugiyama Laboratory at RIKEN Innovation Center in Yokahama, Japan. Between 1991 and 2012 he was a professor at the Department of Molecular Pharmacokinetics at Tokyo University. For many years, Sugiyama has been the world’s most frequently cited scientist in the field of pharmacology and toxicology. He has made major contributions to both physiologically based pharmacokinetics, where the metabolism of a drug in animals and humans is studied, and molecular pharmacokinetics. In the latter field his basic charting of transport processes in the liver, kidneys, intestines, and brain have led to a better understanding and enhanced predictions of drug metabolism in these organs. Over the years researchers at the Uppsala University Faculty of Pharmacy have collaborated with Professor Sugiyama in many ways, including in national graduate schools and in connection with scientific symposia.

Faculty of Medicine:

Björn Ekström is to be awarded an honorary doctorate for his major work in maintaining and developing the translation of academic advances into industrial uses in the Uppsala region. He worked at Pharmacia Biotech in Uppsala for 18 years, for instance as head of a research division charged with developing new biotechnological methods. Ekström became the first employee when the Pyrosequencings company was established in Uppsala, and he held central posts within the organization before leaving the company in 2003. The following year he founded the Olink company together with scientists from Uppsala University, and under his management developed it into a company that very efficiently converts academic discoveries into industrial applications and is providing international dissemination of technologies developed at Uppsala University. As CEO of Olink, Ekström was also instrumental in starting the companies Halo Genomics and Q-linea, where he was able to bring to bear his extensive industrial experience. He complements an excellent understanding of the value of basic academic research with comprehensive expertise in industrial product and business development.

Professor John Lambris, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, is a world-leading researcher in the field of natural immunity, especially complement system biology. Our inborn immune defence is of fundamental importance to our defence against microorganisms and to our ability to distinguish between the body’s own substances and alien substances. Activation of different parts of the immune system can cause tissue damage in autoimmune disorders, cell and organ transplants, stroke, and heart attacks, for example. Uncontrolled activation of the complement system can also lead to problems with the use of medical equipment, such as heart-lung machines and dialysis equipment. Lambris has performed fundamental studies in the biochemistry of the complement system and also shown that it is involved in other contexts than immune processes, including foetal development. One of his greatest accomplishments is the development of Compstatin, the first peptide found to inhibit complement activation at the so-called C3 level. This is currently under development by a drug company for the treatment of several different diseases.

Jan-Olov Johansson is one of Sweden’s most skilful and acclaimed science journalists. He completed his basic education at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), and took an M.S. in agriculture in 1980. Johansson started his career as a science journalist early and later became a familiar voice on Science Radio in Sweden. His journalistic work has played a major role in the science community in Uppsala. Johansson was one of the founders of Science Radio and has served as producer and host of more than 100 radio programmes on science, agriculture, and the environment. Up to 2009 he served as a “senior reporter” at Swedish Radio. In recent years he has primarily devoted his time to the public debate about science. Johansson has moderated many debates about research and research funding and has commented on science in his own column in the local newspaper, Upsala Nya Tidning (UNT). He has also hosted many series of popular science lectures in collaboration with Uppsala University and UNT. Mention can be made, for example, of “Life, the Universe, and Everything”, “Stupidity or Diversity” and ”Faculty X, or Developmental Conferences for the Curious”. Johansson is a member of the Board of the Swedish Association of Science Journalism and has served as chairman of the Society of Medical Journalists.