Hiroaki Suga Honored with Ojima Distinguished Lectureship Award in Chemistry

The Institute of Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery (ICB&DD)Department of ChemistryCollege of Arts and Sciences and Office of the Provost hosted the Ojima Distinguished Lectureship Award in Chemistry, honoring professor Hiroaki Suga on April 26.      

Stanislaus Wong, chair of the Department of Chemistry, gave the opening remarks and thanked Iwao Ojima, distinguished professor and director of the ICB&DD, and his wife, Yoko Ojima, for their generosity as well as outstanding work with philanthropy. Established in 2020 to commemorate Ojima’s 75thbirthday, the Ojima Distinguished Lectureship award is based on an endowment from the Ojima family to help ensure that eminent scholars can continue to enrich the Department of Chemistry and Stony Brook University. 

The event continued with remarks by Carl Lejuez, provost and executive vice president for faculty affairs, who highlighted Ojima’s commitment and support for SBU and the Department of Chemistry. 

Ojima’s strong commitment to SBU began in 1983 as a young faculty member; he also served as the chair of the Department of Chemistry from 1997 to 2003. Ojima has given numerous donations to chemistry and other areas around campus throughout the years. Lejuez recognized the impact of events such as this as opportunities to learn new ideas, strengthen ongoing research and forge collaborations across new lines of inquiry.      

Ojima suga award
Hiroaki Suga and Iwao Ojima.

Suga’s lecture, “Therapeutics Based on New Modalities of Pseudo-Natural Peptides, Products and Neobiologics,” was well attended by university faculty, staff and students. The lecture was followed by the presentation of the award plaque by Ojima to Suga. 

Suga is a renowned academic inventor, entrepreneur and leader in professional society and government. His research program focuses on bioorganic chemistry, chemical biology and biotechnology related to RNA, translation and peptides. Suga made significant advances in using RNA-based enzymes, or ribozymes, to incorporate unnatural amino acids into tRNA. This technology, flexizyme, greatly expanded the potential for reprogramming the genetic code. 

In 2023, Suga was awarded the Wolf Prize in Chemistry for developing an exceptionally innovative in-vitro selection system for cyclic peptides as inhibitors of protein-protein interactions. He is a co-founder of PeptiDream, which became a publicly traded company on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and is one of Japan’s most successful startup companies.

Suga received his PhD in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and then conducted postdoctoral research at Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital. He joined the University of Buffalo in 1997, later moving to the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology of the University of Tokyo, Japan. In 2010, he was appointed a professor of chemistry in the Department of Chemistry, University of Tokyo, where he remains. Since 2022 he has served as president of the Chemical Society of Japan.

Ojima suga group
From left: Yoko Ojima, Iwao Ojima, Hiroaki Suga and Stanislaus Wong.

Ojima received his PhDfrom the University of Tokyo, Japan. He joined the Sagami Institute of Chemical Research and held the position of senior research fellow until 1983. Ojima  joined SBU as faculty in the Department of Chemistry as associate professor (1983), was promoted to professor (1984), leading professor (1991), and then to distinguished professor (1995). He has been serving as the founding director for the ICB&DD since 2003. Ojima has also been serving as the president of the SBU chapter of the National Academy of Inventors since 2016. He has a wide range of research interests in synthetic organic and medicinal chemistry as well as chemical biology, including the discovery and development of anticancer agents, antimicrobials, and targeted drug delivery systems. Ojima’s pioneering and innovative works on organometallic chemistry, homogeneous catalysis, catalytic asymmetric synthesis, new and efficient synthetic methods, and methodologies have been well recognized worldwide. 

Ojima has received numerous awards and honors, and holds more than 100 issued patents, including 460 U.S. patents. Among his awards include prestigiousnational awards in four different subdisciplines from the American Chemical Society: Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award, E. B. Hershberg Award for Important Discoveries of Medicinally Active Substances, ACS Award for Creative Work in Fluorine Chemistry, and E. Guenther Award in the Chemistry of Natural Products. Other honors include the induction to the Medicinal Chemistry Hall of Fame, American Chemical Society, the Chemical Society of Japan Award; and Outstanding Inventor Award from the SUNY Research Foundation. Ojima is the Elected Fellow of the J. S. Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the New York Academy of Sciences, the American Chemical Society, the National Academy of Inventors, and the European Academy of Sciences.         

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