5 Apr 2019

Announcement of the Death of Dr. Sydney Brenner, Former President of OIST Promotion Corporation

The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) is greatly saddened to announce the death of Dr. Sydney Brenner, former President of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Promotion Corporation (OIST P. C., 2005 - 2011), the predecessor of OIST Graduate University. Dr. Brenner passed away in Singapore, where he resided, on Friday, April 5, 2019. He was 92.

A distinguished scientist and the 2002 Nobel Prize Laureate in Physiology or Medicine, Dr. Brenner was instrumental in establishing OIST and enabling the University to conduct internationally impactful education and research. In 2017, recognizing his contribution, the Government of Japan honored Dr. Brenner with the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun.

Dr. Brenner had a firm belief in the value of technology and innovation:

“Progress in science depends on new techniques, new discoveries and new ideas, probably in that order. Innovation comes only from an assault on the unknown. I think one of the things about creativity is not to be afraid of saying the wrong thing.”

Prof. Noriyuki Satoh, principal investigator of the OIST Marine Genomics Unit said, “If not for Dr. Brenner, OIST wouldn’t have achieved so many outstanding results in genome research. He was a very warm-hearted person. He understood the importance of scientific research and rendered unstinting assistance to OIST scientists.”

Born in South Africa in 1927, Dr. Brenner held an honors degree and a Master of Science in Anatomy and Physiology from the University of Witwatersrand before completing a Doctor of Philosophy at Oxford University. Later, he joined the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, where he became the director of the Medical Research Council Laboratory in 1979. In 1996, he founded the Molecular Sciences Institute in California, USA. 

Dr. Brenner led a distinguished research career in the field of genetics and molecular biology. In the early 1960s, he co-discovered the existence of messenger RNA and demonstrated that the nucleotide sequence of mRNA determines the order of amino acids in proteins. For this discovery he was awarded the Lasker Award in Basic Medical Research in 1971. He not only established the roundworm (Caenorhabditis elegans) as a model organism for studies in the fields of genetics, neurobiology and developmental biology—he, along with his colleagues Drs. H. Robert Horvitz and John Sulston, won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for this pioneering research.

He took the mantle of OIST P.C. President from 2005 until October 2011, leading the development of the organization toward its establishment as the present Graduate University.

OIST President Peter Gruss commented on the sad news saying, “Dr. Brenner will be greatly missed and fondly remembered.”

By Tomomi Okubo


For press inquiries, please contact media@oist.jp.