The program known as the “Oscars of Science” has revealed who’ll be getting the spotlight — and almost $22 million in awards — at next month’s Breakthrough Prize ceremony in Silicon Valley.
The Breakthrough Prize Foundation and its sponsors listed nine researchers as recipients of the Breakthrough Prize for important achievements in the life sciences, fundamental physics and mathematics, plus 12 early-career scientists who’ll be getting New Horizon Prizes.
Each of the Breakthrough Prizes is worth $3 million, which exceeds the $1.1 million cash value of the longer-running Nobel Prize. Each New Horizon Prize is worth $100,000. In some cases, multiple researchers share the prize.
The Breakthrough Prize program, now in its seventh year, is sponsored by Russian billionaire investor Yuri Milner and his wife, Julia; Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan; Google co-founder Sergey Brin; 23andMe CEO and co-founder Anne Wojcicki; and Tencent Holdings CEO and co-founder Ma Huateng.
The winners will be honored during a glitzy Nov. 4 ceremony at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., hosted by actor Pierce Brosnan and broadcast live on National Geographic.
Last month, the prize organizers announced that British physicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell would receive a special award for her role in the discovery of pulsars and her career-long leadership in the scientific community. Here are the additional winners announced today:
Breakthrough Prize in Life Science
Ionis Pharmaceuticals’ C. Frank Bennett and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s Adrian Krainer share a $3 million prize for the development of a gene therapy drug that treats a rare but deadly infant disease known as spinal muscular atrophy:
Angelika Amon of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology wins the prize for determining the consequences of aneuploidy, a condition that involves an abnormal number of chromosomes and disrupts the cell’s genetic error-correcting system:
Harvard’s Xiaowei Zhuang wins the prize for discovering hidden structures in cells by developing super-resolution imaging, a method that transcends the fundamental spatial resolution limit for traditional light microscopy:
Zhijian “James” Chen of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center for learning how DNA triggers immune and autoimmune responses from the interior of a cell through the discovery of cGAS, an enzyme that senses DNA:
Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics
The University of Pennsylvania’s Charles Kane and Eugene Mele share the prize for developing new ideas about topology and symmetry in physics, leading to the prediction of a new class of materials that conduct electricity only on their surfaces:
Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics
Vincent Lafforgue of France’s CNRS research agency and the Fourier Institute wins the prize for his contributions to several areas of mathematics, in particular to the Langlands program in the function field case. The overarching theory, developed by award-winning Canadian mathematician Robert Langlands, has been called the “grand unified theory of mathematics”:
New Horizons Prizes
- Columbia University’s Brian Metzger wins a physics prize for his pioneering predictions of the electromagnetic signal from a neutron star merger, and for leadership in the emerging field of multi-messenger astronomy.
- Caltech’s Rana Adhikari shares a physics prize with MIT’s Lisa Barsotti and Matthew Evans for research focusing on present and future ground-based detectors for gravitational waves.
- MIT’s Daniel Harlow, Harvard’s Daniel Jafferis and Stanford’s Aron Wall share a physics prize for their insights into quantum information, quantum field theory and gravity.
- Chenyang Xu of MIT and the Beijing International Center for Mathematical Research wins a mathematics prize for making major advances in the minimal model program and applying that work to the moduli of algebraic varieties.
- Karim Adiprasito of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and June Huh of the Institute for Advanced Study share a mathematics prize for contributing to the development of combinatorial Hodge theory, leading to the resolution of the log-concavity conjecture of Rota.
- The University of Turku’s Kaisa Matomäki and Caltech’s Maksym Radziwell share a mathematics prize for breakthroughs in the understanding of local correlations of values of multiplicative functions.