Keiichi Itakura


Keiichi Itakura (板倉 啓壹, Itakura Keiichi, born February 18, 1942 in Tokyo, Japan) is an organic chemist and a Professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at the Beckman Research Institute at City of Hope National Medical Center.[1][2]


Itakura was born in Tokyo, Japan on February 18, 1942. He obtained a PhD in Organic Chemistry at Tokyo Pharmaceutical College in 1970. He then accepted a fellowship with Saran A. Narang at the Division of Biological Sciences, National Research Council of Canada, to work on DNA synthesis.[2]

In 1975, Itakura joined the City of Hope National Medical Center. There he was part of a team of scientists including Arthur Riggs who developed recombinant DNA technology. By 1976, the first artificial gene had been synthesized, by Har Gobind Khorana at MIT, and the possibility of synthesizing insulin through bacterial fermentation by incorporating a gene for insulin into a bacterium such as E. coli had been suggested.[3][4]

Itakura and others succeeded in synthesizing a plasmid containing chemically synthesized lac operator in 1976, using a technique they called "linker technology".[5]

"We used the technology that Itakura was the master of to make small pieces of DNA, which greatly improved the ability to cut and splice exactly where you wanted. We devised how you can put them exactly where you want them... That was a major contribution." Arthur Riggs[6]

In 1977, Itakura successfully synthesized the gene for somatostatin.[7][8] Production of somatostatin, a hormone produced in the human brain, was not expected to be commercially significant. However, the work was considered a possible first step towards the creation of a synthetic insulin. Building on Khorana's work, Itakura developed a technique that reduced the time involved in successful synthesis from years to weeks.[4] He then inserted the gene for somatostatin into E. coli.[8] This was the first demonstration of a foreign gene inserted into E. coli.[2][7][9][10]

By 1978 Herbert Boyer's biotechnology startup Genentech had contracted with Riggs and Itakura,[4] and Boyer and Itakura had created a plasmid coded for human insulin. Genentech signed a joint-venture agreement with Eli Lilly and Company to develop and market the technology. Their product, Humulin, approved in 1982 by the FDA, was the first biotechnology product to be marketed.[7] Genentech patented techniques that list Itakura and Riggs as the inventors, and are known as the Riggs-Itakura patents.[11][12] As their principal organic chemist, Keiichi Itakura was essential to the success of Genentech's development of synthetic insulin.[4][13] His work on recombinant DNA technology has had a significant impact in molecular biology and biochemistry.[2][4]

Keiichi Itakura became a senior research scientist at City of Hope in 1980.[2] In 1982, he formed the Department of Molecular Genetics (later the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology).[14] Itakura became director of City of Hope's genetics laboratory in 1989.[2] As of 2016 he continues to work and teach at City of Hope.[1]

Awards and honoursEdit


  1. ^ a b "Keiichi Itakura, Ph.D." City of Hope. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Oakes, Elizabeth H. (2007). "Itakura, Keiichi". Encyclopedia of world scientists. New York: Facts on File. pp. 366–367. ISBN 9781438118826. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  3. ^ Maugh, T. (1 October 1976). "The artificial gene: it's synthesized and it works in cells". Science. 194 (4260): 44. Bibcode:1976Sci...194...44M. doi:10.1126/science.11643334. PMID 11643334.
  4. ^ a b c d e Stern, Scott (1995). "Incentives and Focus in University and Industrial Research: The Case of Synthetic Insulin". In Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Technological Innovation in Medicine; Rosenberg, N.; Gelijns, A. C.; Dawkins, H. (eds.). Chapter 7: Sources of Medical Technology: Universities and Industry. Washington (DC): National Academies Press. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  5. ^ Heyneker, Herbert L.; Shine, John; Goodman, Howard M.; Boyer, Herbert W.; Rosenberg, John; Dickerson, Richard E.; Narang, Saran A.; Itakura, Keiichi; Lin, Syr-yaung; Riggs, Arthur D. (28 October 1976). "Synthetic lacoperator DNA is functional in vivo". Nature. 263 (5580): 748–752. Bibcode:1976Natur.263..748H. doi:10.1038/263748a0. PMID 1069185.
  6. ^ Lewis, Wayne (June 2, 2013). "Breakthroughs Art Riggs: The story behind synthetic human insulin". City of Hope. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  7. ^ a b c "Herbert W. Boyer and Stanley N. Cohen". Science History Institute. June 2016. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  8. ^ a b Itakura, K; Hirose, T; Crea, R; Riggs, AD; Heyneker, HL; Bolivar, F; Boyer, HW (9 December 1977). "Expression in Escherichia coli of a chemically synthesized gene for the hormone somatostatin". Science. 198 (4321): 1056–63. Bibcode:1977Sci...198.1056I. doi:10.1126/science.412251. PMID 412251.
  9. ^ Cohen, S.; Whelan, W.; Black, S. (1982). "Gene expression in heterospecific hosts". From Genetic Experimentation to Biotechnology—The Critical Transition. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
  10. ^ Cohen, Stanley N. (2009). "Science, Biotechnology, and Recombinant DNA: A Personal History" (PDF). University of California. Regional Oral History Office.
  11. ^ "Recombinant cloning vehicle microbial polypeptide expression US 4704362 A". Patents. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  12. ^ Gellene, Denise (September 25, 2001). "Genentech Co-Founder Testifies For Firm". L. A. Times. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  13. ^ "City Of Hope opens new center for diabetes research and care". News-Medical Life Sciences. 2011-03-22. Retrieved March 22, 2011.
  14. ^ "Molecular and Cellular Biology". City of Hope. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  15. ^ "David Rumbough Award Recipients" (PDF). Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Retrieved 30 September 2016.