Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka was educated in Japan, receiving his DVM in 1978 and his PhD in 1983 from Hokkaido University. He established the technique of reverse genetics, which allows the generation of ‘designer’ influenza viruses. This technology is used to update the flu vaccine FluMist® and to generate bird flu vaccine candidates. Dr. Kawaoka discovered what makes bird flu viruses so deadly and how they jump from birds to humans. In addition to his influenza research, Dr. Kawaoka also studies Ebola virus. His group worked in Sierra Leone during the 2014–2016 Ebola outbreak and continues to work with Ebola survivors. He is currently developing an Ebola vaccine, which entered clinical trials in 2019. In February 2020, he began research on SARS-CoV-2 to understand how the virus causes severe disease and to develop vaccines. In recognition of his achievements, Dr. Kawaoka was awarded the Robert Koch Award in 2006. In 2013, he was elected as an international member of the United States National Academy of Sciences. In 2015, he received the UNESCO Carlos J. Finlay Prize for Microbiology.

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