In Memory of Professor Shogo Sasaki, M.D., Ph.D. (June 18, 1916 – November 20, 2014)

Prof. Shogo Sasaki - photoProf. Shogo Sasaki—past president of the IUMS—died unexpectedly of heart failure, November 20, 2014. He was 98 years old.

Prof. Sasaki, a Japanese national, was a renowned microbiologist, educator, and the father of gnotobiology in Japan, nurturing the science starting with introduction of germfree mice and technology into Japan.

Graduating from Keio University School of Medicine in 1941, he started his career with the Dept. of Bacteriology, only to be drafted into the Imperial Japanese Navy after just one month. Returning to Keio upon demobilization in 1945, his interest in interspecies interaction was fostered through witnessing transition in the plant flora covering the devastation which was once the Keio campus.

Lifelong study of interaction between host and gastrointestinal flora was continued through time spent at Pennsylvania University Medical School as a Rockefeller Fellow, research and teaching at Keio (Assistant, Associate, then as Full Professor from 1963-1973), creation of the world’s largest germfree ward at Tokai University alongside establishment of its School of Medicine, assuming office as its first Dean and Professor (1974-1992), and as President of the Tokai University Junior College of Nursing and Technology (1979-1992).

Winner of numerous awards for his work on the relationship between resident intestinal flora and infectious disease, he has contributed to the development of microbiology through his role as President of many congresses and associations. This included terms as Vice-Chair and Chairman of the Bacteriology Division (currently BAM), then as Vice-President and President of the IUMS, where he advocated the importance of coherence among the three Divisions of the Union. In addition, he has headed many ministry committees and missions, serving as councillor, trustee, board member, and advisor for numerous organizations.

Conferred honorary degrees from Semmelweis, Wake Forest, Keio, and Tokai Universities, he has been awarded honorary status in many associations. In 1994, Shogo Sasaki was awarded the Second Class Order of the Sacred Treasure (Gold and Silver Star) in recognition for longstanding service, dedication and outstanding contribution.

Learning that study of individual components is incapable of explaining the whole through his work with gnotobiotic animals, he consistently strove for integration in inter- and intra-disciplinary contexts in an era of increasing specialization and diversification, in research, clinical practice, and education. Focusing upon interaction between host and bacteria, and between species of the resident flora, his central theme was infection—the endless battle between host and parasite—which never ceased to amaze him, with their mysterious nature and complexity.

“Looking back on life, I see a compilation of multifarious events, but with outcomes mostly falling within the `realm of the expected.’ For instance, medical education, day-to-day experimentation, school management. Most of them proceeded as projected—producing results within the realm of expectation—and did not bear anything new.

However, there were some that fell outside the range of expectation, producing the so-called `unforeseen.’ I now realize that those unforeseen results were the very windows of opportunity leading to novel approaches and developments, which I have attempted to record.

If there is indeed an afterlife, these approaches are exactly where I would like to resume my quest.”

       —Shogo Sasaki, April, 2013, Tokyo Japan