Masashi Yanagisawa, MD, PhD, is Director of the International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine at the University of Tsukuba.
As a graduate student at University of Tsukuba, Dr. Yanagisawa discovered endothelin, a potent vasoconstrictor peptide from vascular endothelial cells. After moving to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, he discovered that orexin deficiency causes the sleep disorder narcolepsy, opening a new avenue in sleep research which led to a better understanding of sleep/wake switching mechanisms in the brain. Recognizing that the fundamental mechanism for sleep homeostasis remains a mystery, in 2010 he embarked upon a highly ambitious project of polysomnography (EEG/EMG)-based forward genetic screen for sleep/wake abnormalities in chemically mutagenized mice, which has recently led to identification of several new genes that are important to the regulation of sleep amounts and the level of sleep need.
An elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Yanagisawa is the recipient of many honors, including The Asahi Prize and The Keio Medical Science Prize (2018). He was named a Person of Cultural Merit by the Government of Japan (2019) and received the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2023).