Breakthrough Prize Marks 5th Anniversary Celebrating Top Achievements In Science And Awards More Than $25 Million In Prizes At Gala Ceremony In Silicon Valley

2017 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Awarded to Stephen J. Elledge, Harry F. Noller, Roeland Nusse, Yoshinori Ohsumi, and Huda Yahya Zoghbi

2017 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics Awarded to Joseph Polchinski, Andrew Strominger, and Cumrun Vafa

2017 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics Awarded to Jean Bourgain

New Horizons in Physics Prize awarded to Asimina Arvanitaki, Peter W. Graham, and Surjeet Rajendran; Simone Giombi and Xi Yin; and Frans Pretorius

New Horizons in Mathematics Prize awarded to Mohammed Abouzaid, Hugo Duminil-Copin, and Benjamin Elias and Geordie Williamson

Second Annual, International Breakthrough Junior Challenge Won by Female Students Antonella Masini, 18 (Peru) and Deanna See, 17 (Singapore)

2016 Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, awarded in May to founders and team members of LIGO, awarded to Kip Thorne, Rainer Weiss and family of Ronald Drever

Laureates to be honored at glittering awards gala hosted by Morgan Freeman, with live performance by Alicia Keys and presentations from Daniel Ek (CEO of Spotify), Jeremy Irons, Mark and Scott Kelly, Hiroshi Mikitani (CEO of Rakuten), Sienna Miller, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vin Diesel, Kevin Durant, Dev Patel, Sundar Pichai (CEO of Google), Alex Rodriguez, Will.i.am, Susan Wojcicki (CEO of YouTube) and the founders of the Breakthrough Prize

December 4, 2016 – (San Francisco) – The Breakthrough Prize and founders Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki, Yuri and Julia Milner, and Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, tonight announced the recipients of the 2017 Breakthrough Prizes, marking the organization’s fifth anniversary recognizing top achievements in Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics and Mathematics. A combined total of $25 million was awarded at the gala ceremony in Silicon Valley, hosted by Morgan Freeman. Each of the Breakthrough Prizes is worth $3 million, the largest individual monetary prize in science.

This year, a total of seven of these prizes were awarded to nine individuals, along with a $3 million Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, which was split between three founders and more than a thousand members of the LIGO team. In addition, three $100,000 New Horizons in Physics Prizes were awarded to six early-career physicists, and a further three $100,000 New Horizons in Mathematics Prizes were awarded to four young mathematicians. And this year there were two winners of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, each receiving up to $400,000 in educational prizes for them, their teacher and their school.

Since its inception in 2012, the Breakthrough Prize has awarded close to $200 million to honor paradigm-shifting research in the fields of fundamental physics, life sciences, and mathematics.

“There has never been a more important time to support science,” said Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. “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.”

The 2017 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences was awarded to Stephen J. Elledge (Harvard Medical School); Harry F. Noller (University of California, Santa Cruz); Roeland Nusse (Stanford University); Yoshinori Ohsumi (Tokyo Institute of Technology); Huda Yahya Zoghbi (Baylor College of Medicine).

The 2017 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics was awarded to Joseph Polchinski (University of California, Santa Barbara); Andrew Strominger (Harvard University); and Cumrun Vafa (Harvard University).

The three honorees joined the recipients of the previously announced Special Prize in Fundamental Physics, released in May 2016. Ronald Drever (California Institute of Technology, Pasadena), Kip Thorne (California Institute of Technology, Pasadena) and Rainer Weiss (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), were recognized in May for their detection of gravitational waves, opening new horizons in astronomy and physics. The three winners of the Special Prize will share a $1 million prize, and 1,012 LIGO team members will share $2 million.

The 2017 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics was awarded to Jean Bourgain (Institute for Advanced Study).

This year’s ceremony will mark the fifth anniversary of the organization, and laureates will take to the stage tonight at an exclusive gala co-hosted by founders Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki, Yuri and Julia Milner, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, and Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. Academy Award®-winning actor Morgan Freeman will host the show, which will feature a performance by 15-time Grammy Award® winner Alicia Keys, and celebrity presenters Jeremy Irons, Mark and Scott Kelly, Hiroshi Mikitani (CEO of Rakuten), Sienna Miller, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vin Diesel, Kevin Durant, Dev Patel, Sundar Pichai (CEO of Google), Alex Rodriguez, Will.i.am, Susan Wojcicki (CEO of YouTube), as well as the founders of the Breakthrough Prize. The theme of the evening will be “the universal reach of ideas.”

“Science is universal,” said Yuri Milner. “Tonight it brought together some of the world’s greatest actors, sportsmen, musicians, academics, entrepreneurs, astronauts and, last but not least, scientists, to celebrate what the human mind can achieve. And it brought in a live audience from across the planet.”

One of the highlights will be the speeches by the two female students who won the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, Antonella Masini, 18 (Peru) and Deanna See, 17 (Singapore). The Breakthrough Junior Challenge is a global science video competition designed to inspire creative thinking about fundamental concepts in the life sciences, physics, or mathematics. In recognition of their winning submissions, both students received up to $400,000 in educational prizes, including a scholarship worth up to $250,000, $50,000 for an inspiring teacher, and a state-of-the-art science lab valued at $100,000.

Entries from 146 countries were received in the 2016 installment of the global competition, which kicked off on September 1, 2016. The Breakthrough Junior Challenge is funded by Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, and Yuri and Julia Milner, through the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, based on a grant from Mark Zuckerberg’s fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and a grant from the Milner Global Foundation.

“The Breakthrough Junior Challenge encourages students to better understand the worlds of science and mathematics and to have some fun along the way,” said Breakthrough Prize co-founder Dr. Priscilla Chan. “Antonella and Deanna both have bright futures in science and I am so excited to honor their work. They are also incredible storytellers, whose ability to capture these complex ideas in accessible and exciting ways is truly inspiring. I cannot wait to see how they will change the world.”

In addition, six New Horizons prizes – an annual prize of $100,000 each, recognizing the achievements of early-career physicists and mathematicians – were awarded.

The New Horizons in Physics Prize was awarded to:

  • Asimina Arvanitaki (Perimeter Institute, Ontario), Peter W. Graham (Stanford University) and Surjeet Rajendran (University of California, Berkeley)
  • Simone Giombi (Princeton University) and Xi Yin (Harvard)
  • Frans Pretorius (Princeton University)

The New Horizons in Mathematics Prize was awarded to:

  • Mohammed Abouzaid (Columbia University)
  • Hugo Duminil-Copin (Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques and University of Geneva)
  • Benjamin Elias (University of Oregon) and Geordie Williamson (Kyoto University and University of Sydney)

The ceremony will be directed and produced, for the fourth time, by Don Mischer alongside executive producers Charlie Haykel and Juliane Hare of Don Mischer Productions.

Broadcast live in its entirety on National Geographic at 10/9c on Sunday, Dec. 4, an edited one-hour version of the ceremony will also air on FOX on Sunday, Dec. 18, at 7:00-8:00 PM ET/PT and globally on National Geographic in 171 countries and 45 languages.

2017 Breakthrough Prize In Life Sciences

The Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences honors transformative advances towards understanding living systems and extending human life, with one prize dedicated to work that contributes to the understanding of neurological diseases.

Each of the five Life Science winners received a $3 million prize.

Stephen J. Elledge, Gregor Mendel Professor of Genetics and Medicine in the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and in the Division of Genetics at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Investigator with the 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, Director of the Center for Molecular Biology of RNA, Robert L. Sinsheimer Professor of Molecular Biology and Professor Emeritus of MCD Biology at 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, Professor of Developmental Biology at Stanford University and Investigator at 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, Honorary Professor, Institute of Innovative Research at 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, Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics, Molecular and Human Genetics, Neurology and Neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine, Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Director of the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute (NRI) at 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.

2017 Breakthrough Prize In Fundamental Physics

The Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics recognizes major insights into the deepest questions of the universe.

The three winners, sharing the $3 million prize, are:

Joseph Polchinski, Professor in the Department of Physics and Member of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara;

Andrew Strominger, Director of the Center for the Fundamental Laws of Nature at Harvard University; and,

Cumrun Vafa, Donner Professor of Science in the Department of Physics at Harvard University,

All three received the Prize for transformative advances in quantum field theory, string theory, and quantum gravity.

2017 Breakthrough Prize In Mathematics

The Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics honors the world’s best mathematicians who have contributed to major advances in the field.

Jean Bourgain, IBM von Neumann Professor in the School of Mathematics at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey, for multiple transformative contributions to analysis, combinatorics, partial differential equations, high-dimensional geometry and number theory.

2017 New Horizons In Physics Prize

The New Horizons in Physics Prize is awarded to promising early-career researchers who have already produced important work in fundamental physics.

  • Asimina Arvanitaki (Perimeter Institute, Ontario), Peter W. Graham (Stanford University) and Surjeet Rajendran (University of California, Berkeley)
  • Simone Giombi (Princeton University) and Xi Yin (Harvard)
  • Frans Pretorius (Princeton University)

2017 New Horizons In Mathematics Prize

The New Horizons in Mathematics Prize is awarded to promising early-career researchers who have already produced important work in mathematics.

  • Mohammed Abouzaid (Columbia University)
  • Hugo Duminil-Copin (Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques and University of Geneva)
  • Benjamin Elias (University of Oregon) and Geordie Williamson (Kyoto University and University of Sydney)

2017 Breakthrough Junior Challenge

The second annual Breakthrough Junior Challenge recognizes two winners this year - Antonella Masini, 18, from Peru, and Deanna See, 17, from Singapore. Antonella and Deanna will each receive up to $400,000 in educational prizes.

Antonella’s video, submitted in the physics category, focused on quantum entanglement. Deanna’s life sciences video, titled “Superbugs! And Our Race against Resistance,” tackled antibiotic resistance.

Images and select video from the 2017 Breakthrough Prize Gala -red carpet and ceremony- can be downloaded for media use at: www.epklink.com/2017BreakthroughPrize

About the Breakthrough Prizes

For the fifth year, the Breakthrough Prizes will recognize the world’s top scientists. Each prize is $3 million and awarded in the fields of Life Sciences (up to five per year), Fundamental Physics (up to one per year) and Mathematics (up to one per year). In addition, up to three New Horizons in Physics and up to three New Horizons in Mathematics Prizes are given out to junior researchers each year. Laureates attend a televised awards ceremony designed to celebrate their achievements and inspire the next generation of scientists. As part of the ceremony schedule, they also engage in a program of lectures and discussions. The Breakthrough Prizes were founded by Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, and Yuri and Julia Milner. Selection Committees composed of previous Breakthrough Prize laureates choose the winners.

Information on the Breakthrough Prizes is available at breakthroughprize.org.

For Breakthrough Prize

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