Tasuku Honjo expresses gratitude after being named as co-winner of this year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine at an Oct. 1 news conference. (Video footage taken by Daisuke Takahashi)

KYOTO--Tasuku Honjo credits his lifelong natural curiosity for his achievements that were capped with being named Oct. 1 co-winner of this year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Honjo, 76, held a news conference at Kyoto University, where he is a distinguished professor, following an announcement in Stockholm he would share the prestigious award with James Allison of the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas.

Honjo said that curiosity and not hastily believing something must be true were always in the back of his mind while doing research.

"I think it is important to continue until one can confirm the results with one's own eyes," Honjo said. "One has to think for oneself and pursue the research until one is satisfied."

Honjo has said that since his college days the six C's of curiosity, courage, challenge, confidence, concentration and continuation were his driving force in research that led to the development of drugs that opened up new cancer treatments.

Honjo emphasized that basic research is fundamental to producing solid results.

"I would be extremely happy if by winning this year, it provides encouragement to the many researchers working in basic research by having the results of that basic research lead to clinical testing," Honjo said.

He cautioned that there was always a danger of major problems emerging if only applied research was conducted.

"We still do not have an adequate understanding of what kind of design has emerged for the life sciences," Honjo said. "There is a design in artificial intelligence and rocket science, so it is possible to put together projects toward a goal, but for life sciences it is difficult to even come up with such a design."

Honjo used the news conference to call for research funds to be spread wider, rather than on the efforts of a single individual. He proposed that funds would offer a greater payoff if they were distributed to 10 or so researchers engaged in basic research in diverse areas.

Honjo on Oct. 2 indicated he would establish a foundation at Kyoto University to support young researchers. The Nobel Prize award and royalties from some of the profits connected with the cancer drug Opdivo would go to the foundation, Honjo said.

He added that luck had been on his side as a researcher.

An article Honjo wrote in a journal in 1992 about the discovery of the protein PD-1 was the catalyst that led to him winning the Nobel Prize.

"At that time, I never thought it would lead to a drug to treat cancer," Honjo said. "As I continued with my research, specialists in cancer and immunology led me along the correct path. There are many other instances where I feel that good luck played a major role in my winning the prize."

During the news conference, Honjo thanked those who have worked with him on research, his students and his family.

He also said he was always encouraged by the expressions of gratitude by patients whose lives had been prolonged as a result of his research activities.

"What made me very happy was holding the thought that my research was significant after being told by patients who have recovered from serious illness due to the treatment used, 'You are the reason I am still alive,'" Honjo said.

Besides his research, Honjo is still an avid golfer and his goal is to shoot his age.

He recalls being thanked on a golf course by an individual who told him, "I thought at one time that this would be my last round since I had lung cancer, but the illness was cured and I can continue playing golf."

Honjo also had words of encouragement for elementary and junior high school students who may be toying with pursuing a career in research.

"What is important is to always hold a feeling of wanting to know something and to hold a sense of wonder," Honjo said. "Do not trust what is written in textbooks. You should have a feeling of wanting to find out what is really going on. Do not give up."