Breakthroughs in science

The winners of the Breakthrough prizes were announced on December the 4th. For those of you who haven’t heard about these prizes; they are the Oscar awards of science. The principle is quite similar; there are nominees, nice trophies, famous actors and singers in the audience (this year it was Morgan Freeman, Alicia Keys and Jeremy Irons) and a big show. But most importantly, there is an exceptional amount of money involved. The winners receive 3 Million Dollars for their groundbreaking research.

This year, 25 Million Dollars in total were awarded to six researchers in Genetics and Cell Biology, one in mathematics, one prize for string theoreticians and a distinct prize for the LIGO gravitational wave detector experiment.

My special interest goes to the prizes awarded to Genetics and Cell Biology, all of which are discoveries that extend human life.

Here we have…

Stephen J. Elledge who received the prize for clarifying how cells sense and respond to damage in their DNA.

Harry F. Noller for his extensive findings on the structure of ribosomes and the importance of RNA to their mechanics (thereby connecting modern biology to the origin of life).

Roeland Nusse for his groundbreaking research on the Wnt pathway (a pathway that is basically connected to everything from development of embryos to progression of cancer).

Yoshinori Ohsumi who also received the Nobel prize for elucidating the process of autophagy (a recycling system that takes place in our cells)

Huda Yahya Zoghbi  who won the prize for her findings that provide extensive insights into the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative and neurological diseases (Spinocerebellar ataxia and Rett syndrome)

The Breakthrough Foundation was founded in 2013 and is funded by Sergey Brin of Google, Anne Wojcicki of the genetics company 23andMe, Jack Ma and his wife Cathy Zhang of Alibaba internet businesses, Yuri Milner and his wife Julia Milner, entrepreneurs and finally Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan of Facebook.

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Anja Smykowski

Editor at Springer
I am a Polish/German editor working at Springer in the Netherlands. My background is in biological sciences (mainly marine and molecular) and I am particularly interested in the art of story telling and how it can be used in scientific communication.
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