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In memoriam: Naoya Ogata, pioneered use of salmon DNA for photonics

04 January 2016

Naoya Ogata, the Hokkaido scientist who pioneered the use of salmon DNA for photonics and biotronics applications, died in December at home in Chitose, Japan. He was 83.
Known as "Nagy" to friends and colleagues, Ogata first began purifying the salmon DNA after finding that Japanese fishers were throwing away 15 to 20 tons of salmon waste each year, and that almost 90% of it was pure DNA. He turned a waste product into a valuable material for photonics applications.
He was a professor at Chitose Institute of Science and Technology and the institute's second president. After his retirement, Ogata continued his research as the Ogata Research Laboratory Ltd.

Biotronics is a research area that uses biologically based materials for photonics and electronics applications. Currently, DNA and silk are the most prevalent of these materials. DNA-based applications for security and defense have been developed, including electro-optic modulators, bio-field-effect transistors (BioFETs), electrochromics, energy storage, and electromagnetic interference shielding. Additional applications have potential in lighting and telecommunications.

James Grote, a member of the SPIE Board of Directors who worked with Ogata for several years and developed further advances using DNA in photonics, called him "a very kind and generous man, and top researcher and mentor. It is he we must thank for our successful research with DNA photonics. Nagy had a huge impact on the field."

Grote said he will miss Ogata "both as a friend and colleague. I do feel fortunate to have gotten to know Nagy-san and work with him."

Other colleagues expressed their thoughts and admiration for Ogata.

"Dr. Nagy Ogata was a visionary in making large quantities of salmon DNA available and in applications of this DNA to human health issues and to many other scientific endeavors. He was a generous and caring scientist. Although he will be missed, the development of DNA as a material will be his valued legacy." Perry Yaney, University of Dayton.

"We have lost one of the monumental polymer chemists who demonstrated his excellence in all his research areas." Jung-Il Jin, Korea University.

"He was indeed the pioneer and spiritual leader of the DNA photonics field. We all benefited from his encouragement and generosity." Andrew Steckl, University of Cincinnati.

"He was a great friend, a wonderful colleague and an extraordinary scientist." SPIE Fellow Paras Prasad, State University of New York at Buffalo.
Ogata served on the program committee for the SPIE conference Nanobiosystems: Processing, Characterization, and Applications, held each year at SPIE Optics + Photonics in San Diego. This summer, the conference will pay tribute to him with a special session.
More information about DNA-based photonics in the SPIE Newsroom article