Mark Zuckerberg (C), CEO of Facebook, addresses the inaugural event of Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences in San Francisco, the United States, Feb. 20, 2013. Silicon Valley technology luminaries on Wednesday announced the launch of the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, awarding 11 scientist 3 million U.S. dollars each for their groundbreaking achievements in life sciences research. (Xinhua/Li Mi)
SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- Silicon Valley technology luminaries on Wednesday announced the launch of the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, awarding 11 scientist 3 million U.S. dollars each for their groundbreaking achievements in life sciences research.
The prize, announced at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), is administered by the non-profit Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Foundation, led by board chairman Art Levinson, who is chairman of Apple Inc. and also chairman of biotech giant Genentech.
Founding sponsors include Russian venture capitalist Yuri Milner, Google co-founder Sergey Brin and wife Anne Wojcicki, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan. Besides the 33 million dollars for inaugural winners, they have agreed to put another 15 million dollars every year for five prizes going forward.
"I think our society needs more heroes, more scientists, more researchers, more engineers," said Zuckerberg at the event. He noted that while the prize would recognize researchers with groundbreaking achievements, it also intended to inspire future scientists.
"The things that we talk about in the media and the things the market rewards has a big influence on what the next generation of people growing up will choose to do," said the Facebook CEO.
According to Milner, the prize currently targets research on five specific diseases chosen by the five sponsors. Wojcicki's donation will support research on Parkinson's disease and the others have not decided yet.
Lewis Cantley, a leading cancer researcher and director of the Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medical College and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, is one of the winners who is awarded for the discovery of PI 3-Kinase, a family of enzymes involved in cancer metabolism.
He told Xinhua that Wednesday is his birthday and the prize is a fantastic birthday present. "The other winners are all spectacular scientists. They had huge impact in the field of medical science. It's an honor to be part of that group."
With 3 million dollars for each, the Breakthrough Prize in Life Science is one of the most lucrative academic prizes in the world, exceeding the prestigious Nobel Prize which was around 1.2 million dollars in 2012.
In July 2012, Milner also founded Fundamental Physics Prize which is dedicated to awarding physicists in fundamental research for 3 million dollars.