About Us


Dr. Terasaki established the Nibei Foundation, a California non-profit organization, in 1998, with the idea for it to serve as a hub of cultural exchange to support researchers. Learning from the day to day challenges he experienced as a scholar abroad in London, from connecting with resources to building a social network for the family, Dr. Terasaki wanted to create a support system for visiting scholars to the U.S. from Japan.   
 
His vision for the Foundation included promoting cultural exchange and providing various forms of support to medical researchers and physicians coming from Japan to engage in medical activities at institutions in the United States. Since May 2002, the Foundation has sponsored researchers, hosted events, and built a network of researchers and physicians to be a part of during their time in the Los Angeles. These scholars and their families have the opportunity to connect with and learn about the Japanese American community and history as well as experience the vibrant Los Angeles lifestyle. This network continues to grow every year, and many continue to stay engaged even after returning to Japan. 
 
In addition to supporting researchers from Japan and promoting cultural exchange, the Nibei Foundation aims to support and enhance the well-being of Japanese and Japanese Americans through arts, science, culture, and community engagement.   
 
Paul I. Terasaki, PhD (1929 – 2016) and Hisako Terasaki


Dr. Paul Terasaki was born in 1929 in Los Angeles, California. The oldest of three sons, Dr. Terasaki’s early years were at times difficult. As a result of President Roosevelt’s Executive Order in 1942, Dr. Terasaki was forced to move to the Gila River internment camp in Arizona. He lived there for three years in one room with his parents, two brothers, and an aunt. When the war ended and the family was allowed to leave Arizona, they moved to Chicago rather than return to Los Angeles because of anti-Japanese sentiment on the west coast. Despite the subpar education he received in Arizona, Dr. Terasaki finished high school and then enrolled at the University of Illinois, where he was a pre-medicine student. In 1948, when the family felt it was safe to move back to Los Angeles, Dr. Terasaki transferred to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to complete his degree in Zoology. 
 
Dr. Terasaki earned his bachelor’s degree in Zoology in 1950 and then began work towards a Ph.D. While working towards his Ph.D., Dr. Terasaki met his wife, Hisako Sumioka. Hisako grew up in Boyle Heights in East Los Angeles.  In 1942, as a result of Executive Order 9066, she and her family were relocated to Poston internment camp in Arizona. After the war Hisako worked as a live-in housekeeper while attending high school.  She went on to study art and obtained her B.A. degree in Education at Los Angeles City College and taught elementary school for one year.  Paul and Hisako had three sons and a daughter between 1954 and 1962. While raising a family and supporting her husband’s academic career, Hisako pursed the art of printmaking. In 1978, she held her first solo exhibition followed by another in 1980.  Her work was exhibited primarily in the Los Angeles area and reflected her family and their travels around the world. 
 
In 1956, Dr. Terasaki earned his Ph.D. in Zoology from UCLA. His career in transplant began when, after completion of his Ph.D., he was hired by the UCLA Department of Surgery to study the success of skin graft transplants on newborn chicks. When Dr. Terasaki entered the field of organ transplant in 1956, it was in its infancy and he was at the forefront. Today, he is known as a pioneer in transplant, but in 1956, he, like everyone else, was trying to figure it all out. 
 
In 1957-1958, Dr. Terasaki worked as a scholar in London in Professor Peter Medawar’s laboratory. These years were, in his words, “the most significant time of my entire life.” After his time in London, Dr. Terasaki returned to Los Angeles and UCLA as a researcher. Dr. Terasaki began his antibody research with chickens and then in mice and rabbits and eventually, in 1963, in humans. Among his most notable contributions to the field of organ transplant, Dr. Terasaki developed the microcytotoxicity test in 1964, which by 1970, became the international standard. Dr. Terasaki would later be promoted to professor of surgery, a rare exception as he had a PhD unlike the MDs that almost every other faculty member of the surgery department of UCLA had. He held that position from 1969-1999. Dr. Terasaki valued his collaboration with other transplant centers and through his collaboration, established the kidney transplant registry, which would eventually become the United Network for Organ Sharing registry. 
 
Although he retired from his position at UCLA in 1999, Dr. Terasaki continued his work in transplant research and specifically, the role of antibodies in transplant, with the establishment in April 2000 of the Terasaki Foundation Laboratory (TFL). Forever grateful for the opportunities afforded him by UCLA, Dr. Terasaki wanted to be both institutionally and physically closer to his alma mater. He entered into an affiliation agreement with UCLA to create the Terasaki Institute (formerly TFL) and began the process to locate the newly created Terasaki Institute in Westwood. Until his death in January 2016, Dr. Terasaki continued to impact the field of organ transplant through his dedication to research and desire to improve transplant outcomes.  
 
In the spring of 2020, the Terasaki Institute for Biomedical Innovation was introduced and expanded to an interdisciplinary approach to solving problems and personalizing patient care through the development of cutting-edge technology platforms.  The Institute will continue to build upon the work and legacy of Dr. Terasaki’s vision to improve the health of individuals. 

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