[April 2013 organizational change]
Reorganized to explore new research possibilities  > Center for Life Science Technologies
About Us


Shigeyuki Yokoyama

Organisms perform life activities on the basis of higher-level biomolecular systems. These systems are primarily composed of tens of thousands of proteins, which are translated from genes. Biomolecules exert their functions through interactions with proteins, nucleic acids, sugars, and other molecules. It is therefore only natural that, in order to understand biomolecular systems to comprehend life itself, we must understand the biomolecules composing the systems, and the mechanisms by which they establish such systems.

It is now known that the majority of diseases result from disorders in the functions of biomolecules or biomolecular systems, and thus the comprehension of biomolecular systems will be a major theme in the understanding and treatment of disease. Here at RIKEN, our researchers analyze the forms and functions of biomolecules involved in disease causation, to discover substances that can control the mechanisms of these biomolecules, and generate research that can be applied to medical treatments and drug discovery. However, most of the proteins involved in biomolecular systems are complexes, membrane proteins, and other difficult-to-study molecules; thus, analyses of these proteins have been difficult up to this point.

Since the inauguration of the Genomic Sciences Center in 1998, RIKEN, initially in the form of the Protein Research Group, has elucidated the structures and functions of many important, yet somewhat analysis-immune, proteins. Along the way, the development of protein analysis facilities and novel technologies, and the nurturing of human talent have also been accomplished in great leaps and bounds, with the five years between 2002 and 2007 in particular being a hive of activity, with around 2,700 protein structures and functions elucidated, through the National Project on Protein Structural and Functional Analysis (the “Protein 3000” Project). Using these cornerstones, results, and experiences as a basis, we are now moving on to the analyses of even more challenging proteins, in an effort to elucidate the mechanisms of interactions of biomolecular systems at the three-dimensional structural level, and to reconstruct the functions as biomolecular systems in vitro, in order to gain deeper understanding of life. We hope that the results and the novel technologies developed can be used to their fullest potential, both within and outside of RIKEN, to advance crucial research into disease treatments and to give something back to society, through the conversion of research results into industrial applications.

Shigeyuki Yokoyama

Systems and Structural Biology Center