Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg Joins Host Of Tech Titans To Launch New Life Sciences Prize
February 21, 2013

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg Joins Host Of Tech Titans To Launch New Life Sciences Prize

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

Russian Entrepreneur Yuri Milner and a gang of his “old friends,” including Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Sergey Brin, have now joined together to reward breakthroughs in medical science with cold, hard cash, and loads of it.

Called the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, those scientists who are deemed worthy of the prize will be awarded $3 million, twice the amount awarded with the Nobel Prize. This is the second time Milner has been involved in such a venture, giving millions of dollars to scientists.

The new organization has already bestowed some $3 million in awards to 11 scientists, most of them American.

About that gang of old friends: Milner has stocked his new organization with some big name players in the tech and medical sectors: along with Zuckerberg and Brin, the list also includes their wives and Ana Wojcicki, founder of genetics company 23andme. Art Levinson, Apple´s Chairman of the Board, will also act as the chairman of the board for the Life Sciences Breakthrough Prize.

The founding members of this prize aim to give these breakthrough scientists celebrity level status rather than celebrating sports stars and other celebrities.

“Curing a disease should be worth more than a touchdown,” said Sergey Brin in a statement.

Anne Wojcicki said, “We are thrilled to support scientists who think big, take risks and have made a significant impact on our lives. These scientists should be household names and heroes in society.”

Zuckerberg also said he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, were excited to be a part of this venture.

“We believe the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences has the potential to provide a platform for other models of philanthropy, so people everywhere have an opportunity at a better future,” said Zuckerberg.

Each year, this organization will give 5, $3 million awards to those scientists they feel have done great work in “curing intractable diseases and extending human life.”

Many of the first award winners have performed work in the area of genetics and cell growth aimed at understanding and preventing cancer. These winners will be officially announced and presented these awards at a special conference held in San Francisco.

The first 11 winners of this award include: Cornelia I. Bargmann, David Botstein, Lewis C. Cantley, Hans Clevers, Napoleone Ferrara, Titia de Lange, Eric S. Lander, Charles L. Sawyers, Bert Vogelstein, Robert A. Weinberg, and Shinya Yamanaka.

Dr. Eric S Lander, for instance, works for the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT and is a leader of the Human Genome Project, aimed to identify each of the genes in human DNA and determine their sequence.

In an interview with the New York Times, Dr. Lander said he was surprised to have won such a “staggering amount of money.”

“Their idea seems to be to grab society´s attention, to send a message that science is exciting, important, cool, our future,” said Dr. Lander.

Dr. Lander said he´ll be using his $3 million to pay for new ways to teach biology online.

In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Zuckerberg said he hoped this award would inspire college students to begin working harder on developing the next great breakthrough in medical science.

"Hopefully we can create something that will make them want to [take chances and find cures]. I hope what we've done can serve as that platform. And others will create other prizes to serve other philanthropic efforts."