Akira Endo (biochemist)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigationJump to search

Akira Endo
Born(1933-11-14)14 November 1933
Died5 June 2024(2024-06-05) (aged 90)
Alma materTohoku University,
Known forDiscovering the first statin (HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor), paving the way for statin drug development
AwardsHeinrich Wieland Prize (1987)
Japan Prize (2006)
Massry Prize (2006)
Lasker Award (2008)
National Inventors Hall of Fame 2012)
Canada Gairdner International Award (2017)
Scientific career
InstitutionsSankyo Co., Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology

Akira Endo (遠藤 章, Endō Akira, 14 November 1933 – 5 June 2024) was a Japanese biochemist whose research into the relationship between fungi and cholesterol biosynthesis led to the development of statin drugs, which are some of the best-selling pharmaceuticals in history.

Endo received the Japan Prize in 2006,[1] the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award in 2008,[2] the Canada Gairdner International Award in 2017.



Endo was born on a farm in Northern Japan and had an interest in fungi already at a young age, being an admirer of Alexander Fleming.[3] He obtained a BA at Tohoku University (Faculty of Agriculture) in Sendai in 1957 and a PhD in biochemistry at the same university in 1966.[citation needed]

Endo died of pneumonia on 5 June 2024, at the age of 90.[4][5]



From 1957 to 1978 he worked as a research fellow at chemical company Sankyo Co.; initially he worked on fungal enzymes for processing fruit juice.[6] Successful discoveries in this field gained him the credit to move to New York City in 1966, and spend two years at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine as a research associate[1] working on cholesterol.[3]

His most important work in the 1970s was on fungal extrolites and their influence on cholesterol synthesis. He hypothesised that fungi used chemicals to ward off parasitic organisms by inhibiting cholesterol synthesis. The cell membranes of fungi contain ergosterol in place of cholesterol, allowing them to produce compounds that inhibit cholesterol. In 1971 he found a culture broth with citrinin had potent inhibitory activity against HMG-CoA reductase and lowered serum cholesterol levels in rats, but research was suspended because of renal toxicity.

Endo studied 6,000 compounds, of which three extrolites from Penicillium citrinum mold isolated from a rice sample collected at a grain shop in Kyoto showed an effect.[7] Findings from clinical studies were only reported in 1980.[8]

One of them, mevastatin, was the first member of the statin class of drugs. Soon after, lovastatin, the first commercial statin, was found in the Aspergillus mold. Although mevastatin never became an approved drug, the mevastatin derivative pravastatin did.

In the late 70s Endo moved back to Tokyo and was an associate professor and later a full professor (1986-) at the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology between 1979 and 1997. After his official retirement he became the president of Biopharm Research Laboratories.[1]



Endo was awarded several other prizes during his career:[1]

Apart from the recognition, Endo never derived financial benefit from his discovery, despite the fact that statins are amongst the most widely prescribed medications.[3] "The millions of people whose lives will be extended through statin therapy owe it all to Akira Endo," according to Michael S. Brown and Joseph L. Goldstein, who won the 1986 Nobel Prize for related work on cholesterol.[11]

See also



  1. ^ a b c d e The Science and Technology Foundation of Japan. Japan Prize official release Archived 10 January 2007 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 21 June 2006
  2. ^ Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award, 2008: Akira Endo
  3. ^ a b c Landers, Peter (9 January 2006). "How One Scientist Intrigued by Molds Found First Statin". Wall Street Journal.
  4. ^ Japan Biochemist Who Discovered Statins, Akira Endo, Dies At 90: Colleague
  5. ^ "Akira Endo obituary: Japanese biochemist whose work led to statins". The Times. 25 June 2024. Retrieved 14 July 2024.
  6. ^ Endo, Akira; Miura, Yukichi (May 1961). "Studies on Pectolytic Enzymes of Molds: Part I. Survey of Enzyme-producing Microorganisms by Fruit Juice ClarificationPart II. On the Pectolytic Activities of Several MoldsPart III. General Characteristics of Pectolytic Enzymes Produed by Coniothyrium diplodiella". Agricultural and Biological Chemistry. 25 (5): 382–400. doi:10.1080/00021369.1961.10857819. ISSN 0002-1369.
  7. ^ Endo, Akira; Kuroda M.; Tsujita Y. (December 1976). "ML-236A, ML-236B, and ML-236C, new inhibitors of cholesterogenesis produced by Penicillium citrinium". Journal of Antibiotics. 29 (12): 1346–8. doi:10.7164/antibiotics.29.1346. PMID 1010803.
  8. ^ Yamamoto, Akira; Sudo, Hiroshi; Endo, Akira (March 1980). "Therapeutic effects of ML-236B in primary hypercholesterolemia". Atherosclerosis. 35 (3): 259–266. doi:10.1016/0021-9150(80)90124-0. ISSN 0021-9150. PMID 7362699.
  9. ^ Allen, Frederick. "The Inventors Hall of Fame Honors the Greatest Living Innovators". Forbes. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  10. ^ ESC Gold Medal Award winner: Professor Akira Endo
  11. ^ landers, peter (9 January 2006). "How one scientist intrigued by molds found first statin". Wall Street Journal. WSJ. Retrieved 12 May 2014.