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Japan

Japanese Nobel Prize-winning marine biologist Osamu Shimomura dies aged 90

Shimomura and two American scientists shared the 2008 Nobel Prize for the discovery of a jellyfish protein that later contributed to cancer studies

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 October, 2018, 4:09pm
UPDATED : Monday, 22 October, 2018, 4:11pm

Japanese-born marine biologist Osamu Shimomura, who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry, has died. He was 90.

His alma mater Nagasaki University said on Monday that Shimomura died on Friday of natural causes.

Shimomura and two American scientists shared the 2008 Nobel Prize for the discovery and development of a jellyfish protein that later contributed to cancer studies.

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Shimomura was born in northern Kyoto in 1928 and studied in Nagasaki, where he survived the August 9, 1945, US atomic bombing at age 16. His high school education was cut short during the second world war as he was mobilised to work at a munitions factory.

He eventually earned a chemistry degree in 1951 from Nagasaki College of Pharmacy.

In 1960 he moved to Princeton University, where he isolated the protein in samples of thousands of jellyfish taken from the US West Coast, often with the help of his wife Akemi.

The protein known as Green Fluorescent Protein lets off a glow when it is illuminated with ultraviolet light and has become a key tool in studying biological processes in cells.

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Shimomura was based in the US, but had moved back to Nagasaki to be close to his relatives, Nagasaki University officials said.

The devastation from the atomic bomb that killed 70,000 in Nagasaki left a lasting impression on Shimomura. He often mentioned his experience and called for the banning of nuclear weapons in his lectures later in life.