Social media titans from Google (GOOG) and Facebook announced today the launch of the "Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences," awarding millions of dollars to scientists striving to cure intractable diseases and extending human life.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin and wife Anne Wojcicki, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan and Russian entrepreneur and venture capitalist Yuri Milner have collectively have agreed to establish five annual prizes, worth $3 million each, to those advancing breakthrough research.
The prizes, announced at University of California-San Francisco on Wednesday morning, will be administered by the new nonprofit Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Foundation, lead by board chairman Art Levinson of Genentech.
The first 11 recipients of the Breakthrough Prize include Princeton's David Botstein, director of Princeton University's Integrated Science Program, which has launched many new careers in molecular biology; Bert Vogelstein of Johns Hopkins University, a pioneer in the field of cancer genomics, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Robert Weinberg
and Eric Lander, who study the genetics that underlie major diseases.
Other recipients include Cornelia Bargmann, Lewis C. Cantley, Hans Clevers, Napoleone Ferrara, Titia de Lange, Charles L. Sawyers and Shinya Yamanaka.
"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," said Levinson, in a prepared statement.
Said Wojcicki, founder of the company 23andMe, "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.
Facebook's Zuckerberg said "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."
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.
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