Tokyo Institute of Technology: 2020 METI’s “Awards Program Promoting Informatization” for Assoc. Prof. Masakazu Sekijima

Associate Professor Masakazu Sekijima of the School of Computing’s Department of Computer Science at Tokyo Institute of Technology received the 2020 Minister Prize of Economy, Trade and Industry(METI)’s “Awards Program Promoting Informatization” from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industryouter. The recognition ceremony was held on November 30th at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Associate Professor Sekijima receives a certificate of commendation from Parliamentary Vice-Minister Koichi Munekiyo (left) of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry

Associate Professor Sekijima receives a certificate of commendation from Parliamentary Vice-Minister Koichi Munekiyo (left) of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
Recognized achievements (announced by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry)

Building the drug discovery platform “VisINet” and creating a pharmacophore for the novel coronavirus

In the search for inhibitor compounds for proteins that are potential drug targets, building VisINet (a fusion of conventional simulations and machine learning) as a drug discovery platform has produced major efficiency gains compared to conventional drug discovery methods.

In addition, he created a pharmacophore for the novel coronavirus disease that represents the characteristics that drug candidate compounds should satisfy, and published a paper stating that the pharmacophore can actually detect drug candidate compounds, making a great contribution to the search for treatments using information technology.

According to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the purpose of this formal recognition is to raise public awareness of the information revolution and contribute to the improvement of people’s lives and the sound development of the national economy by recognizing individuals and companies for promoting the information revolution in the economy and our society.

It recognizes individuals and companies that have played a leading role or achieved outstanding results in the research and development of advanced information processing technology, training of advanced IT talent, IT adoption at companies that are behind in IT utilization, and ensuring information processing security.

It has been held since 1972, this year for the 49th time. Associate Professor Sekijima was the only person recognized in the Award for Individuals, and four entities were recognized in the Award for companies.

The following four topics, including the response to the novel coronavirus disease, were designated as important policy areas this year.

1.
Contributions to measures against COVID-19 by taking advantage of information technologies
2.
Contributions to development of human resources with expertise in information technologies in Japan, e.g., IT and AI
3.
Contributions to related industries through social activities or those to information policies through related organizations, such as councils and committees
4.
Other themes
Comment from the award winner Associate Professor Masakazu Sekijima
I am honored to receive the 2020 Minister Prize of Economy, Trade and Industry’s prestigious “Awards Program Promoting Informatization”. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all the students and research collaborators with whom I have been conducting research.

The research topic that led to this award was to improve efficiency by using information technology in drug discovery research and development, which requires 2.6 billion US dollars and more than 10 years to commercialize a single drug. Aside from the novel coronavirus disease which still afflicts us, we are faced with diseases called “unmet medical needs” for which no treatment has been found. In order to meet these needs, I believe that further utilization of information technology is essential.

Encouraged by this award, I will continue to work hard on the research and development of information technology in order to address unmet medical needs.

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