The 2016 Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded to Japanese cell biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi, the Nobel Committee announced on Monday. Ohsumi was awarded the grant “for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy”, which is the process through which organisms naturally disassemble and recycle unnecessary or dysfunctional cellular components.

The committee said Ohsumi’s research into the process “opened the path to understanding the fundamental importance of autophagy in many physiological processes, such as adaptation to starvation, or response to infection”.

Born in 1945 in Fukuoka, Japan, the biologist has been a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology since 2009. Ohsumi is Japan's sixth Nobel laureate in Medicine and 23rd Nobel laureate overall. He studied thousands of yeast mutants and identified 15 genes essential for the field of autophagy.

The Nobel prizes are awarded by the Nobel Foundation, established on the instructions issued by the inventor of dynamite, Alfred Nobel. The award on Monday was announced by Secretary of the Nobel Committee Thomas Perlmann.