Discovery of the antibiotic Kanamysin by Hamao Umezawa

Kanamysin has the remarkable effect of treating infection by highly-resistant bacteria. In addition, Hamao Umezawa (梅澤 濱夫) and others discovered other useful antibiotics of ray fungus origin, such as bleomycin (antineoplastic drug) and kasugamycin (rice blast prevention).

Under Umezawa, who is the antibiotic division manager of the National Institute of Health (present day National Institute of Infectious Diseases), a new water-soluble substance was obtained from actinomycetes separated from one of the soil specimens collected from around Japan. This specimen came from the foot of a Shinshu Utsukushigahara. The curative effect of this substance on tuberculosis in experiments with mice and guinea pigs, and on humans was confirmed by the rapid recovery from tubercular ulcer of the bladder. The substance was identified as kanamysin.

Kanamysin has low acoustic nerve toxicity compared with streptomycin, which was the anti-tuberculosis drug of the day, and also showed remarkable effects in neutralizing staphylococcus, coliform bacillus, tubercle bacillus, and dysentery bacillus. The Microbe Institute for Chemical Research was founded by revenue generated from using the patented kanamysin.
Kanamysin was also the first antibiotic drug in domestic production.

Kasugamycin was discovered in the culture solution of ray fungus in 1963, from experiments to find a new rice blast fungicide from microbe metabolic products. The name kasugamycin came from the mold that was extracted from the soil of the Kasuga Taisha precincts in Nara. The reason why it is still being used to this day is largely based on its effectiveness in fighting on rice blast, and its harmlessness towards animals, plants and the environment.

Clinical treatments on squamous cell carcinoma caused by bleomycin were examined by Atsuji Ichikawa in 1965, while searching for anticancer antibiotics. Its approval came in 1968 as a curative medicine for squamous cell carcinoma and malignant lymphoma, and is used in many countries presently.