Beachy is being honored for his work on Hedgehog, a key molecule in development.

The Keio Medical Science Prize from Keio University in Tokyo, Japan has been awarded to Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Philip A. Beachy of Stanford University School of Medicine and Keiji Tanaka of Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Medical Science.

The Keio Medical Science Prize aims to promote worldwide advances in medicine and life sciences, to encourage the expansion of researcher networks throughout the world, and to contribute to the well-being of humankind.

Beachy is receiving the prize in recognition of his identification of Hedgehog, a key molecule in development, and its medical applications. Tanaka was selected for his discovery of the proteasome and elucidation of its physiological functions.

Conserved from flies to humans, hedgehog genes produce protein signals in specific cells that establish the patterns of embryonic tissues. Beachy and his colleagues identified the hedgehog gene in the early 1990s and have investigated its influence on developmental processes ever since. Hedgehog genes orchestrate the development of body segments and appendages in Drosophila, and pattern the digits on the limbs and organize the spinal cord and brain in vertebrates. Inappropriate activation of hedgehog later in life can trigger certain cancers, an area under active investigation in Beachy’s lab.

Beachy and Tanaka will receive the Keio Prize, which includes a monetary award, at a ceremony in Tokyo in December. Previous Keio laureates include HHMI investigators Brian J. Druker, Ronald M. Evans, Jeffrey M. Friedman, Thomas A. Steitz, and Roger Tsien.

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