Kenichiro ItamiChief Scientist

CV of Prof. Itami (PDF)


Chief Scientist, RIKEN, Japan
Principal Investigator, Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules (ITbM), Nagoya University, Japan
Joint Appointment Research Fellow, Institute of Chemistry, Academia Sinica, Taiwan


Born in 1971 and raised in Tokyo, Kenichiro Itami is a researcher specializing in organic chemistry, synthetic chemistry, molecular nanocarbon science, catalytic chemistry, materials science, and chemical biology.

After graduating from Kunitachi High School (Tokyo) in 1990, Itami pursued a degree in chemistry at Kyoto University (Japan). His bachelor’s thesis, conducted under the guidance of Prof. Hisanobu Ogoshi, explored biomimetic and bio-related chemistry.

In 1994, he entered the Department of Synthetic Chemistry and Biological Chemistry at Kyoto University as a graduate student in the laboratory of Prof. Yoshihiko Ito. He completed his Ph.D. in organometallic and catalytic chemistry in 1998 and spent a pre-doctoral year (1997–1998) at Uppsala University (Sweden) under the supervision of Prof. Jan-Erling Bäckvall, focusing on catalytic asymmetric synthesis.

In the fall of 1998, immediately after earning his Ph.D., Itami commenced his academic career as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Synthetic Chemistry and Biological Chemistry at Kyoto University, serving as a group leader in the laboratory of Prof. Jun-ichi Yoshida. Since then, Itami has focused on the development of innovative functional molecules with significant structures and properties, as well as catalysts for rapid molecular assembly. As an Assistant Professor (1998–2005), he established several novel methods, catalysts, and reagents for programmed chemical synthesis and diversity-oriented synthesis of important functional molecules. Concentrating on multisubstituted olefins and extended π-electron systems, Itami achieved diversity-oriented synthesis, creating a library of multi-color fluorescent molecules and potential anti-cancer drug candidates. Six of the compounds developed during this period are commercially available today.

In 2004, Itami received an offer from Prof. Ryoji Noyori and Prof. Daisuke Uemura at Nagoya University. Moving to Nagoya in 2005 as an Associate Professor (later promoted to Full Professor in 2008), he delved into the field of “molecular nanocarbon science,” a term he coined around 2010. He pioneered this field by bottom-up synthesis of structurally uniform nanocarbons with both fundamental and practical significance, including, carbon nanorings, carbon nanobelts, warped nanographene, all-benzene trefoil knots, and infinitene. These molecules have been recognized as the “Molecule of the Year” by Chemical & Engineering News (American Chemical Society) several times. Collaborative research with companies has seen Itami’s molecular nanocarbons widely applied in various fields, such as organic electronics and bio-applications. Molecular nanocarbon science has become a major trend in chemistry, in both fundamental and applied research. To date, 11 of Itami’s molecular nanocarbons are commercially available, with more in progress. One of these compounds is now produced on a kilogram scale by a company. In synthesizing these previously impossible-to-make “new forms of carbon,” Itami developed many new chemical reactions and catalysts enabling “intuitive” and “direct” chemical transformations. Those include direct arylation of carbon–hydrogen bonds (C–H activation) and annulative π-extension (APEX) reactions of aromatic compounds and nanographenes. These reactions are now routinely used by researchers around the world, and nine commercially available catalysts, ligands, and reactants are available.

Apart from molecular nanocarbon science, Itami founded the Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules (ITbM) in 2012 and served as its founding director for a decade (2012–2022). ITbM, part of the World Premier International Research Center Initiative (WPI), became a hub for interdisciplinary research in synthetic chemistry, plant biology, animal biology, and theoretical science, guided by the concept of Mix Lab. With the slogan of “changing the world with molecules,” Itami played a significant role in propelling the institute’s growth into a globally recognized research hub. This transformation fostered the emergence of new interdisciplinary research fields and the creation of new molecules.

From 2013 to 2020, Itami led interdisciplinary research focusing on molecular nanocarbon science as the research director for the JST-ERATO Itami Molecular Nanocarbon Project. In August 2019, he became a research fellow at the Institute of Chemistry, Academia Sinica, Taiwan, currently conducting international interdisciplinary research using his Taiwan-based laboratory as a hub.

In April 2024, Itami assumed the position of Chief Scientist at RIKEN, launching the Molecule Creation Laboratory as the director.

Itami has published more than 400 scientific papers with over 27,000 citations (h-index 89), and more than 90 patents and patent applications. To date, Itami has successfully developed 23 molecules (commercialized), including molecular nanocarbons, reagents, catalysts, ligands, and bioactive molecules, which are widely used by researchers globally.

Itami has received 47 awards, honors, and named lectureships including the Paul G. Gassman Lecturer (University of Minnesota), the Reuben Benjamin Sandin Lecturer (University of Alberta), the Netherlands Scholar Award for Supramolecular Chemistry, the Guthikonda Lecturer (Stanford University), ICI Distinguished Lecturer (University of Calgary), the Chunichi Cultural Award, the Nagase Prize, Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award (American Chemical Society), Swiss Chemical Society Lectureship Award, Mukaiyama Award, Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, and German Innovation Award. Itami was also selected as Highly Cited Researchers (Clarivate Analytics) 5 times. Itami has delivered more than 450 plenary/keynote/invited lecturers in various symposia, conferences, universities, and companies. So far, 52 alumni of Itami group got positions in academia worldwide.



1990~1994          B.S. in Chemistry, Kyoto University, Japan                               Advisor: Prof. Hisanobu Ogoshi
1994~1996          M.S. Graduate Student in Chemistry, Kyoto University, Japan    Advisor: Prof. Yoshihiko Ito
1996~1998          Ph.D. Graduate Student in Chemistry, Kyoto University, Japan   Advisor: Prof. Yoshihiko Ito
1996~1998          JSPS Research Fellowship for Young Scientists
1997~1998          Exchange Student, Uppsala University, Sweden (Prof. Jan-E. Bäckvall) 


Academic career

1998~2005          Assistant Professor, Kyoto University (with Prof. Jun-ichi Yoshida)
2005~2008          Associate Professor, Nagoya University (with Prof. Ryoji Noyori)
2005~2009          JST, PRESTO, Researcher
2008~2024          Professor, Department of Chemistry, Graduate School of Science, Nagoya University
2012~2022          Director, Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules (ITbM), Nagoya University
2012~present      Principal Investigator, ITbM, Nagoya University
2013~2020          Research Director, JST-ERATO Itami Molecular Nanocarbon Project
2019~present      Joint Appointment Research Fellow, Institute of Chemistry, Academia Sinica, Taiwan
2024~present      Chief Scientist, Director of Molecule Creation Laboratory, RIKEN


Summary of research achievements

Papers & book chapters  412 articles

Representative papers

Science (4), Nature Chem. (4), Nature Commun. (9), Nature Synth. (1), Nature Catal. (1), Nature Chem. Biol. (2), Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA (1), J. Am. Chem. Soc. (58), Angew. Chem. (41), Chem (4), ACS Cent. Sci. (1), Chem. Sci. (24) [as of December 7th, 2023]

Citations >27,000 times

H-index 89 (Web of Science, ResearcherID: B-5110-2011), 99 (Google Scholar)

Patents & patent application            99 files

Commercialization            22 compounds

Awards & honors 47 awards and honors

Alumni in academia           52 researchers

Plenary & invited lectures  445 times


Awards, honors, and named lectureships (47)

2023      Irvine Organic Synthesis Lecturer, University of California, Irvine, USA
2023      The Job Lecturer, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada
2023      The Paul G. Gassman Lecturer, University of Minnesota, USA
2022      Frontiers of EOC Lectureship, Nankai University, China
2022      The Reuben Benjamin Sandin Lecturer, University of Alberta, Canada
2022      ChemSoc Lecturer, University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney, Australia
2021      Highly Cited Researchers 2021, Clarivate Analytics
2020      Highly Cited Researchers 2020, Clarivate Analytics
2019      Highly Cited Researchers 2019, Clarivate Analytics
2018      The Netherlands Scholar Award for Supramolecular Chemistry
2018      Highly Cited Researchers 2018, Clarivate Analytics
2018      The Guthikonda Lecturer, Stanford University, USA
2018      The Roland K. Pettit Centennial Lecturer, University of Texas, Austin, USA
2018      CSJ Award for Creative Work, The Chemical Society of Japan
2017      Highly Cited Researchers 2017, Clarivate Analytics
2017      ICI Distinguished Lecturer, University of Calgary, Canada
2017      The Chunichi Cultural Award
2017      The Bristol-Myers Squibb Lecturer, University of California, Berkeley, USA
2017      The Yomiuri Techno Forum Gold Medal Prize
2017      The SYNLETT Best Paper Award 2016, Thieme
2016      The Holger Erdtman Lecturer, KTH, Sweden
2016      The Nagase Prize
2016      Treat B. Johnson Lecturer, Yale University, USA
2016      Ta-Shue Chou Lectureship Award, Academia Sinica, Taiwan
2015      R. C. Fuson Visiting Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
2015      Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award, American Chemical Society
2015      Swiss Chemical Society Lectureship Award
2014      Nankai University Lectureship Award, China
2014      The Aldrich Lectureship Award, Emory University, USA
2014      The JSPS Prize
2013      Novartis Chemistry Lectureship Award
2013      Mukaiyama Award
2013      Asian Rising Star Award, Asian Chemical Congress
2012      Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, UK
2012      German Innovation Award “Gottfried Wagener Prize”
2012      Novartis-MIT Lecturer in Organic Chemistry (MIT, USA)
2011      ACP Lectureship Award, China
2011      ACP Lectureship Award, Malaysia
2011      Nozoe Memorial Award for Young Organic Chemists
2011      Overseas Distinguished Professor of Wuhan University, China
2008      Merck-Banyu Lectureship Award
2007      Banyu Young Chemist Award
2006      Minister’s Award for Distinguished Young Scientists (MEXT)
2005      Mitsui Chemicals Catalysis Science Award of Encouragement
2005      The Chemical Society of Japan Award for Distinguished Young Chemists
2004      Thieme Journals Award
2000      Nissan Chemical Industries Award in Synthetic Organic Chemistry, Japan


Visiting professorship

2007      Kyushu University, Japan
2008      Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan
2008      Kyoto University, Japan
2009      Kyoto University, Japan
2011      Wuhan University, China (Overseas Distinguished Professor)
2012      Osaka University, Japan
2014      University of Shizuoka, Japan
2013~15 The University of Tokyo, Japan
2015      Chiba University, Japan
2015      Okayama University, Japan
2015      Gifu Pharmaceutical University, Japan
2016      Hokkaido University, Japan
2018      Nagasaki University, Japan
2020      Shunshu University, Japan
2020      Chiba Universiyty, Japan
2021      The University of Tokyo, Japan
2025      Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan


Editors and advisory board

2008~2011          Canadian Journal of Chemistry (Advisory Board)
2011~2017          Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry, RSC (Editorial Board)
2012~2022          Beilstein Journal of Organic Chemistry (Associate Editor)
2013~2016          ChemCatChem (International Advisory Board)
2013~present      Bulletin of the Chemical Society of Japan (Senior Editor)
2014~2021          Chemistry – An Asian Journal (International Advisory Board)
2014~present      Advanced Synthesis & Catalysis (Academic Advisory Board)
2015~present      The Chemical Record (Editorial Board)
2015~present      Tetrahedron/Tetrahedron Letters (Advisory Board)
2016~2018          Accounts of Chemical Research (Editorial Advisory Board)
2016~2023          Chem, Cell Press (Editorial Board)
2017~2020          Angewandte Chemie (International Advisory Board)
2019~present      ACS Central Science (Editorial Advisory Board)
2021~present      Tetrahedron Chem (Advisory Board)
2022~present      Precision Chemistry, ACS (Associate Editor)


Selection committee of awards

2008~2014          Yoshimasa Hirata Memorial Lectureship, selection committee
2014~present      Hirata Award, selection committee
2017~2019          Mukaiyama Award, selection committee
2008~2024          Nagoya Medal Prize of Organic Chemistry, selection committee
2014~2022          Nagoya Medal Prize of Organic Chemistry, head of selection committee
2021                    Tetrahedron Prize, selection committee


Commercialized compounds (22)

[15]Cycloparaphenylene, [15]CPP (Kanto Chemical)
[12]Cycloparaphenylene, [12]CPP (TCI, Kanto Chemical)
[11]Cycloparaphenylene, [11]CPP (TCI)
[10]Cycloparaphenylene, [10]CPP (TCI)
[9]Cycloparaphenylene, [9]CPP (TCI, Kanto Chemical)
[8]Cycloparaphenylene, [8]CPP (TCI)
[7]Cycloparaphenylene, [7]CPP (TCI)
Methylene-bridged [6]cycloparaphenylene, [6]MCPP (TCI)
(6,6)Carbon nanobelt bis(tetrahydrofuran) adduct, (6,6)CNB (TCI)
Warped nanographene, WNG (Kanto Chemical)
[1,2-Bis(dicyclohexylphosphino)ethane]dicarbonylnickel(0), Ni(dcype)(CO)2 (Kanto Chemical)
3,4-Bis(dicyclohexylphosphino)thiophene, dcypt (Kanto Chemical)
2,2‘-Bis[bis(3,5-dimethylphenyl)phosphino]-1,1’-biphenyl, Xyl-BIPHEP (TCI)
5-Adamantyl-IAA, super-strong auxin (TCI)
Yoshimulactone Green, YLG (TCI)
AMOR, glyco-enhancer of plant fertilization (TCI)
Vinylboronic acid pinacol ester (TCI, Sigma-Aldrich)
Bis[dimethyl(2-pyridyl)silyl]methane (TCI)
2-(Allyldimethylsilyl)pyridine (Sigma-Aldrich)
2-(Dimethylvinylsilyl)pyridine (TCI, Sigma-Aldrich)
2-(Trimethylsilyl)pyridine (TCI, Sigma-Aldrich)
2-(Dimethylsilyl)pyridine (Sigma-Aldrich)


Selected interviews and public lectures

Guided by Prof. Daisuke Uemura (Philosophia)
Chem-Station Spotlight Research (Chem-Station)
Changing the world with super molecules (Toshin Highschool)
Frontier Salon Teacher Introduction (Frontier Salon Foundation)
Portrait of researchers (Technologist Magazine)
Front runners (Nikkei Science)
Chem-Station Virtual Symposium (YouTube)
Essay in the Chemical Society of Japan
Introduction of ITbM (YouTube)
A conversation with Kenichiro Itami (ACS Central Science)
Carbon nanobelt commercialized from TCI (YouTube)
Commercialization of carbon nanobelt from TCI (YouTube)
The moment of the world-first synthesis of carbon nanobelt (YouTube)
Interview with Stuart L. Schreiber (YouTube)
Interview with Zhaomin Hou (YouTube)
The symposium of WPI 10th anniversary (YouTube)
WPI Science Talk Live 2013 (YouTube)
MBLA 10th Anniversary Special Lectures (YouTube)
Angewandte Festsymposium (ChemistryViews)
2015 National Organic Chemsitry Symposium (American Chemical Society)
Interview of Chem-Station (Chem-Station)
Author Profile (Angew. Chem. Int. Ed.)

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    Chief Scientist