Art Levinson, Sergey Brin, Anne Wojcicki, Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan and Yuri Milner announced the launch of the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (“Breakthrough Prize”) on February 20, 2013, recognizing excellence in research aimed at curing intractable diseases and extending human life. The prize will be administered by the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Foundation, a not-for-profit corporation (“Foundation”) dedicated to advancing breakthrough research, celebrating scientists and generating excitement about the pursuit of science as a career.
The first 11 recipients of the Breakthrough Prize are:
• Cornelia I. Bargmann: Torsten N. Wiesel Professor and Head of the Lulu and Anthony Wang Laboratory of Neural Circuits and Behavior at the Rockefeller University. Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.
For the genetics of neural circuits and behavior, and synaptic guidepost molecules
• David Botstein: Director of the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics and the Anthony B. Evnin Professor of Genomics at Princeton University.
For linkage mapping of Mendelian disease in humans using DNA polymorphisms.
• Lewis C. Cantley: Margaret and Herman Sokol Professor and Director of the Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medical College and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
For the discovery of PI 3-Kinase and its role in cancer metabolism.
• Hans Clevers: Professor of Molecular Genetics at Hubrecht Institute.
For describing the role of Wnt signaling in tissue stem cells and cancer.
• Titia de Lange: Leon Hess Professor, Head of the Laboratory of Cell Biology and Genetics, and Director of the Anderson Center for Cancer Research at the Rockefeller University.
For research on telomeres, illuminating how they protect chromosome ends and their role in genome instability in cancer.
• Napoleone Ferrara: Distinguished Professor of Pathology and Senior Deputy Director for Basic Sciences at Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego.
For discoveries in the mechanisms of angiogenesis that led to therapies for cancer and eye diseases.
• Eric S. Lander: President and Founding Director of the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. Professor of Biology at MIT. Professor of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School.
For the discovery of general principles for identifying human disease genes, and enabling their application to medicine through the creation and analysis of genetic, physical and sequence maps of the human genome.
• Charles L. Sawyers: Chair, Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.
For cancer genes and targeted therapy.
• Bert Vogelstein: Director of the Ludwig Center and Clayton Professor of Oncology and Pathology at the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center. Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.
For cancer genomics and tumor suppressor genes.
• Robert A. Weinberg: Daniel K. Ludwig Professor for Cancer Research at MIT and Director of the MIT/Ludwig Center for Molecular Oncology. Member, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research.
For characterization of human cancer genes.
• Shinya Yamanaka: Director of Center for iPS Cell Research and Application, Kyoto University. Senior Investigator, Gladstone Institutes, San Francisco.
For induced pluripotent stem cells.
All prize winners have agreed to serve on the Selection Committee of the Foundation to choose recipients of future prizes.
Founding sponsors of the Breakthrough Prize, including Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan and Yuri Milner, collectively have agreed to establish five annual prizes, US$3 million each, going forward.
Art Levinson, Chairman of the Board of Apple and Chairman and former CEO of Genentech, will serve as the Chairman of the Board of the Foundation, while additional directors will include Anne Wojcicki, Mark Zuckerberg and Yuri Milner.
“I am delighted to announce the launch of the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences and welcome its first recipients," said Art Levinson. “I believe this new prize will shine a light on the extraordinary achievements of the outstanding minds in the field of life sciences, enhance medical innovation, and ultimately become a platform for recognizing future discoveries. I also want to thank our founding sponsors, Sergey Brin, Anne Wojcicki, Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan and Yuri Milner. Without their contribution, this prize would not have been possible.”
“We are thrilled to support scientists who think big, take risks and have made a significant impact on our lives. These scientists should be household names and heros in society,” said Anne Wojcicki.
“Curing a disease should be worth more than a touchdown,” said Sergey Brin.
“Priscilla and I are honored to be part of this,” said Mark Zuckerberg. “We believe the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences has the potential to provide a platform for other models of philanthropy, so people everywhere have an opportunity at a better future.”
“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 Yuri Milner.
Going forward, each year’s prize winners will join the Selection Committee for future awardees. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Breakthrough Prize will be a transparent selection process, in which anyone will be able to nominate a candidate online for consideration. Also, the prize can be shared between any number of deserving scientists and can be received more than once. In addition, there are no age restrictions for nominees.
All Breakthrough Prize recipients will be invited to present public talks targeting a general audience. These lectures, together with supporting materials, will be made available to the public, allowing everyone to keep abreast of the latest developments in life sciences, guided by contemporary masters of the field.
About the Breakthrough Prize Foundation
The Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to advancing breakthrough research in life sciences, celebrating scientists and generating excitement about the pursuit of science as a career. Additional information about the Foundation and the 2013 recipients of the prizes can be found at www.breakthroughprizeinlifesciences.org.
About the participants
Arthur D. Levinson is chairman of Genentech, Inc. and a member of the Roche Board of Directors. He has been chairman of Genentech since 1999, and he served as chief executive officer of Genentech from 1995 to 2009. Levinson joined Genentech in 1980 as a research scientist and became vice president, Research Technology in 1989; vice president, Research in 1990; senior vice president, Research in 1992; and senior vice president, Research and Development in 1993.
Art was appointed Chairman of the Board of Apple in November 2011. He had served as a co-lead director of Apple’s board since 2005 and a director since 2000. He is Chairman of the Board of Amyris and a director of NGM Biopharmaceuticals, Inc. and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. He was a director of Google, Inc. from 2004 to 2009. He currently serves on the Board of Scientific Consultants of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the Industrial Advisory Board of the California Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Research, the Advisory Council for the Princeton University Department of Molecular Biology and the Advisory Council for the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics.
Art has authored or co-authored more than 80 scientific articles and has been a named inventor on 11 United States patents. Art received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Washington and earned a doctorate in Biochemical Sciences from Princeton University.
Mark Zuckerberg is the founder chairman and CEO of Facebook, which he founded in 2004 in his college dorm room.
Mark is responsible for setting the overall direction and product strategy for Facebook. He leads the design of Facebook’s service and the development of its core technology and infrastructure.
Mark studied computer science at Harvard University before moving the company to Palo Alto, California. In September 2010, Mark donated $100 million to the Newark Public School System to help renovate and revamp the system.
Sergey Brin, a native of Moscow, received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors in mathematics and computer science from the University of Maryland at College Park. He is currently on leave from the Ph.D. program in computer science at Stanford University, where he received his master’s degree. Sergey is a recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship as well as an honorary MBA from Instituto de Empresa. At Stanford, he met Larry Page and worked on the project that became Google. Together they founded Google Inc. in 1998, and Sergey continues to share responsibility for day-to-day operations with Larry Page and Eric Schmidt.
Sergey’s research interests include search engines, information extraction from unstructured sources, and data mining of large text collections and scientific data. He has published more than a dozen academic papers, including Dynamic Data Mining: A New Architecture for Data with High Dimensionality, which he published with Larry Page.
Sergey has been a featured speaker at several international academic, business and technology forums, including the World Economic Forum and the Technology, Entertainment and Design Conference.
Anne Wojcicki is Co-Founder of 23andMe, a privately held personal genetics company that helps individuals understand their own genetic information through DNA analysis technologies and Web-based interactive tools. By encouraging individuals to access and learn about their own genetic information, 23andMe aims to create a common, standardized resource that has the potential to accelerate drug discovery and bring personalized medicine to the public. Anne has an extensive background in health-care investing, focused primarily on biotechnology companies. She received a bachelor's degree in biology from Yale University.
Yuri founded Mail.ru Group in 1999. Under his leadership, Mail.ru Group became the leading European Internet company. Yuri took that business public in 2010, stepping down from his role of Chairman at the beginning of 2012 to focus his efforts on global Internet investments. DST Global, a family of funds investing in Internet companies, was established in 2009 and is one of the largest Internet investors in the world.
Yuri graduated from Moscow State University in 1985 with an advanced degree in theoretical physics and subsequently conducted research at the Institute of Physics at the Russian Academy of Sciences. In 2012 he launched the Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation, a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to advancing knowledge of the Universe at the deepest level by awarding annual prizes for scientific breakthroughs, as well as communicating the excitement of fundamental physics to the public.