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Online tycoons announce first winners of $33m research prize

Billionaire founders of Facebook and Google among those behind Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences

Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences

A group of Silicon Valley billionaires, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Google co-founder Sergey Brin, have announced the first winners of a new $33m prize for cutting edge research in human health.

The Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences honoured 11 recipients in its first year, each receiving a $3m – making it the most lucrative annual prize in science research.

Dubbed by some as a new Nobel Prize, whose winners receive $1.2m, the Breakthrough Prize aims to recognise research that is focused on “curing intractable diseases and extending human life”, with more than half of winners at the inaugural event involving studies into cancer.

In addition to Zuckerberg and Brin, the prize's founders also include Russian internet entrepreneur Yuri Milner, who founded Mail.ru Group, and Anne Wojcicki, who co-founded the personal genetics company 23andMe and is married to Brin.

Together with Zuckerberg, they form the board of the Breakthrough Prize, which will be chaired by Art Levinson – a man with top-level experience in both the IT and life sciences industry, who is currently serving as chair of the board at both Apple and Genentech.

Levinson brings a rich biotech background to the Breakthrough Prize, having joined Genentech in 1980 as a research scientist before working his way up to eventually become CEO in 1995. He held this position for 14 years until the company's acquisition by Roche.

“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 recognising future discoveries,” said Levinson.

Conceived as a global award, with anyone will be able to nominate a candidate online for consideration, the Breakthrough Prize saw winners from US, Japan, Italy and the Netherlands in its first year.

Recipients included Bert Vogelstein from the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, who is working on cancer genomics and tumour suppressor genes, and Lewis Cantley of Weill Cornell Medical College for the discovery of PI 3-Kinase and its role in cancer metabolism.

Each winner will be invited to present their work in a public presentation and to put supporting materials on the Breakthrough Prize website.

All laureates will also join the selection committee to choose recipients of future prizes.

Going forward, there will just be five annual prizes, compared to the inaugural 11, although each will still receive $3m.

21st February 2013

From: Research, Healthcare

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