The awarding of this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine to Japanese scientist Tasuku Honjo — for discovery of a protein that contributed to the development of an immunotherapeutic drug against cancer — once again confirms the importance of steady efforts on basic research, which has often been put on the back burner in recent years as greater emphasis was placed on research projects that produce quick and more practical results. Honjo says he would be honored if the feat could serve as an encouragement to those involved in basic research. His great achievement should pave the way for more investments in fundamental research and, as he put it, beefing up "systematic and long-term" support for young researchers in this country.

Honjo, a 76-year-old distinguished professor and deputy director-general of the Kyoto University Institute for Advanced Study, won the prize along with University of Texas professor James Allison for their discovery of proteins responsible for suppressing the immune response against cancer cells, which led to research on cancer treatment that controls the protein's ability to suppress immunity.

Following the discovery of the protein in 1992, Honjo presented his research in 2002 that a drug that prevents the unification of cancer cells and the PD-1 protein is effective against cancer in animals. His research was then tested in a clinical trial before Opdivo was finally approved in Japan in 2014 — and later in the United States and Europe. The works of Honjo and Allison led to a fourth class of cancer treatment — alongside surgery, chemotherapy and radiation — that harnesses the immune system.