#HealthHistory Celebrating revolutionary individuals who made historical advancements in medicine

Jokichi Takamine was a biochemist, industrial leader, and pioneer of biotechnology.  Takamines most notable achievement was the isolation of the chemical adrenalin, also known as epinephrine. Takamine discovered how to isolate this from the suprarenal gland in 1901. This was the first pure hormone to be isolated from natural sources.

Takamine was born in a small town on the West Coast of Japan. At age 12 he began to study science and by age 24 he was selected by the government to study technology at the University of Glasgow. His original interests were in the manufacturing of fertilizers. He decided to use the methods of Japanese sake (rice wine) manufacturing in the brewing industry. This went on to make him a pioneer of industrial enzymology. Takamine was able to commercialize the Japanese process for beer and whisky of fungal starch splitting enzyme in American brewing as a substitute for malt. This was successful and opened the door to a grant that allowed the first patent on a microbial enzyme in the United States.

Takamine then licensed his preparation to Parke, Davis & Company of Detroit under the brand name Taka- diastase. This company marketed his diastase as a digestive aid to treat dyspepsia. It was very successful and Takamine was made a consultant to the pharmaceutical company.

Takamine was then able to establish an independent laboratory. This is where his famous work on adrenaline was done. He spent the following years focusing on biological compounds within the body, “internal secretions”, associated with glands.

The discovery of Adrenaline was a sensation. It transformed surgery, where it controlled hemorrhage. It transformed medicine as it found uses in cardiology, obstetrics, and the treatment of allergies and asthma.

Takamines work has a lasting impression to this day. Adrenaline, now known as epinephrine, is frequently used in medicine. Many of us carry an “Epi-pen” with us every day, which would not have been possible without the work of Jokichi Takamine.