San Francisco: The Breakthrough Prize Foundation announced nine recipients of the 2019 Breakthrough Prize in recognition of their important achievements in the fields of fundamental physics, life sciences and mathematics.
The Foundation will award a total of $21 million to the nine winners. It is considered the most generous science prize in the world, Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday.
Five scientists won the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for their contributions to finding significant solutions to curing human diseases.
Frank Bennett from Ionis Pharmaceuticals and Adrian Krainer from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory were recognised for developing an effective antisense oligonucleotide therapy for children with the neurodegenerative disease of spinal muscular atrophy.
Angelika Amon from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Howard Hughes Medical Institute won the award for determining the consequences of aneuploidy, an abnormal chromosome number resulting from chromosome mis-segregation.
Xiaowei Zhuang with Harvard University and Howard Hughes Medical Institute won the prize for discovering hidden structures in cells by developing super-resolution imaging, a method that transcends the fundamental spatial resolution limit of light microscopy.
Zhijian “James” Chen from University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, was honoured for elucidating how DNA triggers immune and autoimmune responses from the interior of a cell through the discovery of the DNA-sensing enzyme cGAS.
“The winners of the Breakthrough Prize in Life Science show us all how it’s done,” said Cori Bargmann, chair of the selection committee.
“Through creativity, innovation, persistence, and skill, each of them brought about an advance that was previously unimaginable,” Bargmann added.
The Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics went to Charles Kane and Eugene Mele from University of Pennsylvania for their new ideas about topology and symmetry in physics, leading to the prediction of a new class of materials that conduct electricity only on their surface.
Vincent Lafforgue from the French National Center for Scientific Research and the Institut Fourie of Universite Grenoble Alpes was awarded the Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics for groundbreaking contributions to several areas of mathematics, in particular to the Langlands program in the function field case.
“Vincent Lafforgue, in the so called ‘function field case,’ found a beautifully simple direct argument,” said Richard Taylor, chair of the selection committee.
“After seeing it, you ask yourself how the rest of us could have missed it for so long. You finally see why Langlands correspondence has to exist — it no longer seems an unmotivated miraculous consequence of complicated computations,” Taylor said.
British astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell from University of Dundee and University of Oxford claimed the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for her role in the surprise discovery of pulsars — an exotic new type of star — first announced in February 1968, and for her inspiring scientific leadership over the last five decades.
In addition to the seven main-stage prizes, a total of six New Horizons Prizes, worth 100,000 dollars each, were awarded to seven physicists and five mathematicians for early-career achievements in their respective fields.
The awarding ceremony of the Breakthrough Prize, which was hailed as the “Oscars of Science,” will take place on November 4 at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, with a gala event hosted by acclaimed actor, producer and philanthropist Pierce Brosnan, said the Foundation.
Sponsors of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation include Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, Ma Huateng, founder of China’s internet giant Tencent, Israeli-Russian entrepreneur and venture capitalist Yuri Milner and his wife Julia Milner, as well as Anne Wojcicki, an American entrepreneur and the co-founder of the personal genomics company 23andMe.