Science & Environment

$22m science prize winners announced

Sergey Brin and John Hardy Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sergey Brin presents UCL's John Hardy with a Breakthrough Prize in life sciences

The winners of science and maths prizes worth $22m have been announced at a glittering ceremony in Silicon Valley.

The Breakthrough Prize is backed by Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and Google co-founder Sergey Brin, among others.

Prizes were awarded in different categories: life sciences, physics and mathematics.

The awards gala in California was hosted by comedy actor and writer Seth MacFarlane.

"By challenging conventional thinking and expanding our knowledge over the long term, scientists can solve the biggest problems of our time," said Mr Zuckerberg.

In the life sciences, prizes - worth $3m each - were awarded to five individual researchers:

  • Karl Deisseroth and Edward Boyden, who are pioneers in the field of optogenetics, which uses light to control living cells - particularly those in the brain;
  • John Hardy, who studies the genetics of Alzheimer's disease at University College London;
  • Helen Hobbs, who works on the applications of genetics in medicine
  • Svante Pääbo, a pioneer in the field of ancient DNA, who led the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Karl Deisseroth (L) and Edward Boyden are pioneers in the field of optogenetics
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Helen Hobbs studies the applications of genetics in medicine

A single award for fundamental physics was shared by five pioneering neutrino particle experiments - whose teams together number more than 1,300 researchers. This is the same research field honoured by this year's physics Nobel.

The five experiments were the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory in Canada, the Daya Bay facility in China, along with KamLand, K2K/T2K and Super-Kamiokande, which are all located in Japan.

The mathematics prize went to Ian Agol, who studies phenomena known as three-dimensional manifolds.

Other presenters at the gala included actors Russell Crowe and Hilary Swank, while musician Pharrell Williams gave live performance.

The Breakthrough Prize was founded by Brin and Anne Wojcicki, who runs genetic testing firm 23andMe, Chinese businessman Jack Ma, and Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner and his wife Julia.