Five life sciences researchers were honored last night as winners of the 2017 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.
The Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences honors “transformative” advances toward understanding living systems and extending human life. One prize is dedicated to work that contributes to the understanding of neurological diseases.
Prizes of $3 million each were presented to:
- Stephen J. Elledge of Harvard Medical School, the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, for elucidating how eukaryotic cells sense and respond to damage in their DNA and providing insights into the development and treatment of cancer.
- Harry F. Noller of the University of California, Santa Cruz, for discovering the centrality of RNA in forming the active centers of the ribosome, the fundamental machinery of protein synthesis in all cells, thereby connecting modern biology to the origin of life and also explaining how many natural antibiotics disrupt protein synthesis.
- Roeland Nusse of Stanford University and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, for pioneering research on the Wnt pathway, one of the crucial intercellular signaling systems in development, cancer, and stem cell biology.
- Yoshinori Ohsumi of Tokyo Institute of Technology for elucidating autophagy, the recycling system that cells use to generate nutrients from their own inessential or damaged components.
- Huda Yahya Zoghbi of Baylor College of Medicine, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Texas Children's Hospital, for discoveries of the genetic causes and biochemical mechanisms of spinocerebellar ataxia and Rett syndrome, findings that have provided insight into the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative and neurological diseases.
Among other winners, 17-year-old Deanna See, of Singapore, won up to $400,000 in educational prizes for her life sciences video, titled “Superbugs! And Our Race against Resistance,” focused on antibiotic resistance.
Breakthrough Prize honorees in life sciences and other categories were among winners of a combined $25 million that was awarded at the 5th Annual Breakthrough Prize Awards Ceremony, held at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, CA, and televised live on the National Geographic Channel. The gala was hosted by Morgan Freeman, with a live performance by Alicia Keys, and presenters that included Vin Diesel, Kevin Durant, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and Will.i.am.
“The 2017 Breakthrough Prize laureates represent the leaders in scientific research in physics, math, and life sciences. Their breakthroughs will unlock new possibilities and help make the world a better place for everyone,” Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement. “There has never been a more important time to support science.”
Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan are among founders and presenters of the Breakthrough Prize, along with Google co-founder Sergey Brin, 23andMe CEO and co-founder Anne Wojcicki, Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma and his wife Cathy Zhang, technology investor Yuri Milner and his wife Julia Milner, and Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter.