Breakthrough Prize 2019. Winners of the Milner, Brin and Zuckerberg Science Award announced

Published on October 24, 2018

Breakthrough Prize 2019. Winners of the Milner, Brin and Zuckerberg Science Award announced

    On October 18, the laureates of the Breakthrough Prize Prize , founded by Russian businessman Yury Milner together with Mark Zuckerberg and Sergey Brin , were announced . The nine main winners in the field of physics, medicine and mathematics will share between 21 million US dollars. The “Scientific Oscar” award ceremony will be held on November 4 at the NASA base in California, where Star Trek was filmed, and Pierce Brosnan will be leading it. In addition, there is a chance to support Artyom Kirsanov, a schoolboy from Krasnoyarsk, who will go to the award ceremony as a finalist for the Breakthrough Junior Challenge and can win $ 250,000 himself. Mark Zuckerberg and Yuri Milner at one of the Breakthrough Prize presentation ceremonies

    Let's look at how this award appeared and what scientific breakthroughs this year received awards that exceed the Nobel Prizes in monetary terms.

    If someone after the opening of the kata is too lazy to read everything, then you can listen to my today's story about the award on the radio. You can watch the 20-minute video of the broadcast here , and you can listen to the audio podcast here .

    Who invented everything?

    The founder of the award is our compatriot, billionaire and philanthropist Yuri Milner. Milner himself a physicist - graduated from Moscow State University, worked for the future Nobel laureate Vitaly Ginzburg. Being engaged in business, Milner created one of the largest Internet companies in Europe - Group. Later he founded the investment fund DST Global, which was invested in companies such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Airbnb, Spotify, Alibaba and others. Since 2012, he fully focused on foreign projects, moved with his wife to Silicon Valleyand launched a whole series of high-profile breakthrough projects aimed at developing and popularizing science, in particular, Yury’s beloved theoretical physics and space exploration (they are said to be named after Yuri Gagarin) - the Breakthrough Prize scientific prize and competition for schoolchildren to popularize science Breakthrough Junior Challenge . This year, a tenth-grader from Krasnoyarsk can win, but more on that below.

    In addition, with the participation and support of Stephen Hawking, Milner launched a program for the study of deep space Breakthrough Initiatives. The program is implementing two major projects Breakthrough Listen and Breakthrough Starshot, each of which invested $ 100 million. The first is devoted to finding traces of extraterrestrial life in the Universe using the largest radio and optical telescopes (such as the SETI program). And the second is aimed at confirming the concept and developing technologies for sending miniature spaceships to Alpha Centravra during the lifetime of one generation. But back to the prize.


    In 2012, Milner established the largest cash equivalent of a prize in fundamental physics - Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics with a prize fund of $ 3 million. This is at least two times higher than the Nobel Prize. The idea of ​​the award is simple - to reward those who deserve it for research in physics (theoretical, applied - not important), to inspire young people and to make scientists as popular as Hollywood stars. Unlike the Nobel Prize, where I can give a prize for the time-tested discovery of even 20-30 years old, here give prizes for recent breakthrough discoveries.

    A year later, in 2013, joined the initiative friends and partners Milner on IT-investments by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, the founder of Google Sergey Brin and his wife Anne Vozhitski (co-founder of 23andMe) and Chinese billionaires Ma Huaten and Jack Ma.

    Having thrown off, they expanded the prize fund to $ 22 million and increased the number of nominations. Now, in addition to physics, there are 4 awards for breakthroughs in the field of medicine (Life Science) and one in the field of mathematics. Also, in special cases outside of binding to the main ceremony, the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics may be awarded for special scientific achievements, and not for recent discoveries. In 2012, for example, it was received by Stephen Hawking. In addition, in physics and mathematics, three New Horizons Prizes are awarded each with $ 100,000 each for younger researchers (no more than 12 years from pHD protection, although exceptions are possible). However, there is no age limit.

    Photo from FB Mark Zuckerberg

    It will be appropriate to recall here that in 2016 Zuckerberg and Priscilla launched an initiative ( Chan Zuckerberg Initiative ) to combat the most dangerous diseases, in which, within the next 10 years, they gathered to donate $ 3 billion to projects to create drugs from four main groups of diseases: cancer , infectious, cardiovascular and neurological diseases. So their interest in the institution is already clear: 4 Breakthrough Prizes in the field of medicine, unlike one other nomination - it was either a warm-up, or a push to create their big plan for improving the world in which their children will live.

    How to choose the winners?

    In 2012, the first 9 laureates of the prize in physics were chosen by Milner himself, then instructing them to select the winners of the following year. With the advent of awards in medicine and mathematics, the selection procedure has become more transparent and now it takes place in two stages. From February to April, in a special section of the award site, anyone can nominate their nominee (self-nominations are prohibited), and in the fall a special committee, which invites past laureates, selects the winners. At the same time, a prize of $ 3 million can be divided in any nomination into any number of people. This distinguishes it from the Nobel Prize, where the number of laureates is limited to three. So, last year the Breakthrough Prize in Physics received a team of 27 peoplefor the study of relic radiation, and in 2015 it was divided between five scientific groups, numbering a total of 1370 scientists who worked in experiments on the detection of neutrino oscillations.

    Breakthrough Prize 2013 First Prize Laureates

    Award ceremony

    The prize itself claims the title of "Scientific Oscar." And it is fully justified by the scale of the ceremony of its presentation - with a live broadcast on television, inviting stars of Hollywood and show business. At the same time for the presentation of awards are often invited actors who star in films about science or scientists. For example, in different years at the ceremony was Benedict Cumberbatch, who played Alan Turing in The Imitation Game , or Eddie Redman, who played Hawking in Stephen Hawking's Universe .

    Kate Beckinsale and one renowned technology entrepreneur present an award in one of the nominations at the 2014 ceremony.

    Kevin Spacey was the host of the 2013 ceremony

    Zuckerberg and Vin Diesel at the 2016 ceremony.

    Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, Seth MacFarlane were leading in different years, and this year it will be Pierce Brosnan. At the same time, this is all different from Oscar, of course, by scientific bias and entourage . With the exception of the 2013 ceremony, which was held in Geneva, since 2014 the Breakthrough Prize ceremony has been held in the historic Hangar No. 1 of the Ames Research Center.- One of the oldest branches of NASA in California, in the city of Mountain View. Here is a good overview of the hangar. It once filmed "Star Wars" and "Star Trek." In 2014, Google rented it from NASA for $ 1.16 billion for its space projects. And on the premium website Angara No. 1 and the Ames center is called “the home of Kepler's mission to find habitable planets”. So everything is very symbolic. In addition, among the guests and participants of the ceremony there are a lot of famous scientists, technology entrepreneurs, astronauts, and in addition to YouTube and Facebook, the channels are also broadcast by Discovery, Science, National Geographic, Fox and BBC World News.

    Hangar # 1 in the center of Ames, Mountain View, California, during the Breakthrough Prize ceremony

    View of the Moffett Airfield Ames Research Center. Hangar number 1 is the building on the left, with gray lining and a dark top. Photos from here -

    This year's winners

    The winners were announced on October 18, the awards which will be presented on November 4.
    Winners of 4 Breakthrough Prizes in Life Sciences, i.e. in the field of biology and medicine, this year are named:

    1. Frank Bennett and Adrian Kreiner for the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). This rare hereditary neurodegenerative disease is one of the most common causes of hereditary infant mortality. Bennett and Kreiner brought the MCA treatment technology to clinical use in 2016. Such a method may in the future help in the treatment of such diseases as Huntington's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. More information about the method can be read on the portal Neuronews .

    Frank Bennett (left) and Adrian Kreiner (right)

    2. Angelica Amon of MIT and Howard Hughes Medical Institute noted for studying the process and consequences of the formation of the wrong number of chromosomes. If this happens at the stage of embryonic development, the result may be a miscarriage and Down syndrome. In addition, in 80% of oncology types, cancer cells have an abnormal number of chromosomes. Amon has demonstrated why this is happening. Perhaps the work of the winner will be the key to new methods of treatment of cancer.

    3. Xiaoway Chuang of Harvard University and Howard Hughes Medical Institute noted for developing a technique for improving the resolution of optical microscopy.

    4. Zhijian Chenfrom the Southwestern Medical Center at the University of Texas and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, noted for finding out how DNA triggers immune and autoimmune reactions from inside the cell by opening the cGAS DNA-sensitive enzyme. The study is connected with the work of our natural defenders - immune cells. He showed how their reaction to the appearance of an alien microorganism and other influences is triggered.

    Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics 2019 was awarded to Charles Kane and Eugene Mele from the University of Pennsylvania for new ideas about topology and symmetry in physics, which predicted a new class of materials that conduct electricity only by their surface. This discovery is important for the development of quantum computers. In addition, it allows you to study the fundamental properties of matter.

    Charles Caine already received the Breakthrough Prize in 2013. And here again.

    Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics was awarded to Vincent Lough Forge from the National Center for Scientific Research of France and the University of Grenoble “for his fundamental contribution to several areas of mathematics, in particular, to the Langlands program in terms of function fields”.

    Jocelyn Bell in his youth. Photo from here .

    Special Prize in Fundamental Physics this year received Jocelyn Bell(Jocelyn Bell) from the University of Dundee and the University of Oxford "for their fundamental contributions to the discovery of pulsars and inspiring leadership in the scientific community throughout their lives." The first pulsar was discovered in July 1967 by Jocelyn Bell, graduate student Anthony Hewish, on the meridian radio telescope of the Mallard Radio Astronomy Observatory of the University of Cambridge. For this outstanding result, Hewish received the Nobel Prize in 1974. A pulsar is a cosmic source of radiation coming to Earth in the form of pulses. It is believed that rotating neutron stars with a magnetic field that is inclined to the axis of rotation behave this way.

    In addition to the main prizes, 6 New Horizons prizes were awarded each for $ 100,000 for younger researchers (less than 12 years from the defense of a scientific degree) - 3 in physics and 3 in mathematics.

    More information about the winners and the essence of their work can be read on Vesti.Nauka .

    Our people in Hollywood

    In addition to the “adult” awards and nominations Breakthrough Prize, the same organizers from 2015 hold a contest of short popular science videos from schoolchildren and students aged 13-18 years - Breakthrough Junior Challenge . There are quite a few selection stages, including voting on a special page on Facebook (hi, Zuckerberg). As a result, the selection results determine the finalists from around the world.

    So, one of the 16 finalists (there were about 12,000 participants in total!) Was a Russian student of the physical and mathematical class of gymnasium No. 13 from Krasnoyarsk, ARTEM KIRSAN. He made a video on the circadian rhythm (the so-called "biological clock"), for the discovery of the mechanism which last year was given the Nobel Prize.
    So you can cheer for Artem November 4. All finalists will be invited to the Breakthrough Prize in California on November 4th. And that's when the Junior Challenge winners will be announced. The winner receives a grant for training of $ 250 thousand, $ 50 thousand will receive his teacher-mentor, and $ 100 thousand will receive his school for laboratory equipment.
    So we wish good luck to Artem, we will wait for interesting news and generally follow the ceremony - it will be interesting.

    And here is his video:


    1. Breakthrough Prize Prize website . All photos in the post taken from there, unless otherwise indicated.
    2. Description of the winners of this year and their research from Vesti. Science.
    3. Post with a photo and description of Angar No. 1 , where the ceremony takes place.
    4. Interview with Julia Milner .