Zuckerberg co-sponsors $3M prize for life sciences

Breakthrough Prize to be given to 11 scientists for disease research

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
February 20, 2013
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/2dab

I know a lot of people like to rag on Mark Zuckerberg, especially after he came off as a tad less than likeable in The Social Network a couple of years ago, but I don't really see why. By all accounts he lives a modest lifestyle, especially for someone who is a billionaire, and he gives back to the community; he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, were the second biggest philanthropic donors in 2012, giving $498.8 million to charity. 

And now, once again, Zuckerberg and Chan are giving their money to a worthy cause, this time toward saving human lives.

Zuckerberg and Chan, along with Apple chairman Art Levinson, Google co-founder Sergey Brin and his wife Anne Wojcicki, and DST founder Yuri Milner have launched the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, it was announced Wednesday.

The goal of the prize it to recognize "excellence in research aimed at curing intractable diseases and extending human life." 

There are 11 inaugural winners of the Breakthrough Prize, who will each receive $3 million. The prize will be administered by the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Foundation. Levinson will serve as the Chairman of the Board of the Foundation, while additional directors will include Wojcicki, Zuckerberg and Milner.

The first round of winners are: 

  • Cornelia I. Bargmann, for the genetics of neural circuits and behavior, and synaptic guidepost molecules
  • David Botstein, for linkage mapping of Mendelian disease in humans using DNA polymorphisms.
  • Lewis C. Cantley, for the discovery of PI 3-Kinase and its role in cancer metabolism.
  • Hans Clevers, for describing the role of Wnt signaling in tissue stem cells and cancer.
  • Napoleone Ferrara, for discoveries in the mechanisms of angiogenesis that led to therapies for cancer and eye diseases.
  • Titia de Lange, for research on telomeres, illuminating how they protect chromosome ends and their role in genome instability in cancer.
  • Eric S. Lander, 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, for cancer genes and targeted therapy.
  • Bert Vogelstein, for cancer genomics and tumor suppressor genes.
  • Robert A. Weinberg, for characterization of human cancer genes.
  • Shinya Yamanaka, for induced pluripotent stem cells.

Each of the first 11 winners have agreed to serve on the Selection Committee of the Foundation to choose recipients of future prizes. They will also be invited to present public talks which will be made available to the public.

“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,"  Levinson said in statement.

Going forward, the Foundation will be giving out five annual prizes, worth $3 million each.

"Our society needs more heroes who are scientists, researchers and engineers. We need to celebrate and reward the people who cure diseases, expand our understanding of humanity and work to improve people's lives," Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook status.

"At $3 million per prize, it's the largest prize for this work in the world. I'm hopeful this serves as a blueprint for prizes and philanthropy in other fields as well."

(Image source: http://www.breakthroughprizeinlifesciences.org)