Wednesday, February 20, 2013

First 11 Breakthrough Prize Winners Announced: Silicon Valley Investors Provide Funding For Awards

Reward & Recognition

Aarticle, by Rory Carroll, in The Guardian reports that high-tech entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley in California have invested  their money to fund a new prize in the life sciences. The Breakthrough Prize rewards fundamental research whose purpose is to better and extend human life.
The Silicon Valley aristocrats Mark ZuckerbergSergey Brin and Yuri Milner have jointly established the most lucrative annual prize in the history of science to reward research into curing diseases and extending human life. The newly created Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Foundation on Wednesday announces the first 11 winners of an award intended to inject excitement into the sometimes lonely, underfunded quests to understand and combat cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's disease and other maladies.
Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook; Brin, who co-founded Google; and Milner, a venture capitalist, have dipped into their fortunes to sponsor awards worth $3m each, compared with a Nobel prize's monetary value of $1.1m. "With the mapping of the genome sequence there are expectations of significant progress in the next 10 or 20 years so I think the timing is really appropriate to create an incentive for the best scientific minds," Milner told the Guardian in an interview on the eve of the announcement.
A Russian internet investor who quit a PhD in physics and invested in social networking, Milner persuaded his fellow internet billionaires to contribute to the bounty to encourage a new generation of molecular biologists and geneticists. "Young people will hopefully get the message that not only the careers in sports or entertainment can get a public recognition."
Such is true; and this prize will likely get more attention in the years to come. One of its probable weaknesses at the moment, and this doesn't take anything away from this year's winners, is that the prize is currently focused on the United States and its research institutes. Nine of the eleven prize winners are affiliated with American organizations, all leading and recognized research institutes. In the years to come it would be good and advantageous if this changed to include more individuals and institutions outside the U.S. This would give the prize more international recognition and prestige. 

Even so, and more important than the prize money itself is what it recognizes— the fundamental research such scientists conduct, much of it devoted to decoding the complexities of cancer. Bravo both to the individuals who funded this prize and to this year's winners.

You can view the list of this year's winners and read the rest of the article at [The Guardian]