A handful of Silicon Valley's tech titans--including Mark Zuckerberg and Sergey Brin--put $33 million into a new award meant to spark scientific innovation.
The first annual Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences was awarded this week to 11 scientists, who each got a cool $3 million--more than twice of Nobel Prize ($1.2 million). The Breakthrough Prize was sponsored by a group of renowned tech billionaires, including Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner, Google founder Brin, and Facebook CEO Zuckerberg. Other participants include Anne Wojcicki, founder of the genetic mapping start-up 23andMe and Brin’s wife, and Priscilla Chan, Zuckerberg’s wife and a medical school graduate from Stanford University. Apple’s chairman Art Levinson will chair the Breakthrough Prize Foundation.
Many recipients have conducted research on genetics and causes for cancer, according to a list by the Foundation. While most of them come from universities across the U.S., some are top foreign researchers from as far as Netherlands and Kyoto. The Breakthrough Prize aims to “recognize excellence in research aimed at curing intractable diseases and extending human life.”
The effort to set up the Breakthrough Prize was led by Milner, according to the New York Times. Milner launched the Fundamental Physics Prize last July with his own money and gave out $27 million prizes in total to nine fundamental physicists.
“Solving the enormous complexity of human diseases calls for a much bigger effort compared to fundamental physics and therefore requires multiple sponsors to reward outstanding achievements,” said Milner in a prepared statement.
The prize will continue to give out five $3 million annual prizes in the future. The nomination process will also be open to the public online.