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Scientists Who Changed Their Industries With Breakthrough Prize-Winning Achievements

Once again, scientists who are shaping the future of their fields have received global recognition and $3 million cash prizes through Giving Pledge signatory Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Prize.

2023 Breakthrough Prize Winners

The 2023 award-winning scientists, who have received prizes in the Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics, and Mathematics categories, include:

  • Demis Hassabis and John Jumper, for creating an artificial intelligence (AI) method that quickly and accurately forecasts proteins’ three-dimensional structures from their amino acid sequences.
  • Emmanuel Mignot and Masashi Yanagisawa for realizing the cause of narcolepsy and laying the foundation for sleep disorder treatments.
  • Clifford P. Brangwynne and Anthony A. Hyman for their discovery of a cellular organization mechanism that is mediated by the phase separation of proteins and RNA into membrane-less liquid droplets.
  • Peter W. Shor, Gilles Brassard, Charles H. Bennett, and David Deutsch for their essential work in the quantum information field.
  • Daniel A. Spielman, for his work in theoretical computer science and mathematics, particularly on the Kadison-Singer problem, spectral graph theory, numerical linear algebra, optimization, and coding theory.

Meanwhile, previous Breakthrough Prize laureates continue shaping developments in their scientific niches. Here, we’ll explore the achievements of the 2019 Prize winners.

2019 Breakthrough Prize Winners

2019 Life Sciences prizes went to:

  • Adrian R. Krainer and C. Frank Bennett developed an antisense oligonucleotide therapy for children who have spinal muscular atrophy. Fast forward to 2022, and the duo’s research into how ASO-based PKM splice-switching therapy inhibits hepatocellular carcinoma growth appeared in Cancer Research.
  • Xiaowei Zhuang came up with a method called super-resolution imaging to identify hidden structures in cells. Last year, Zhuang won the Heinrich Wieland Prize for her seminal discoveries in cell and neurobiology using her imaging technologies.
  • Angelika Amon identified the consequences of an abnormal chromosome number called aneuploidy. Amon sadly passed away in 2020. Scientific communities continue to celebrate her groundbreaking work.
  • Zhijian “James” Chen illuminated how DNA triggers autoimmune and immune responses from cell interiors by discovering a DNA-sensing enzyme. Last year, the National Academy of Medicine elected Chen, marking one of the highest honors in the health and medicine field. Chen and his colleagues also received a Cancer Grand Challenge grant for their work that aims to solve some of the most challenging problems surrounding cancer.

The 2019 Fundamental Physics prize went to Charles Kane and Eugene Mele, who knew topology and symmetry in physics ideas. These ideas led to the prediction of a new class of materials that only conduct electricity through their surfaces.

The 2019 Mathematics prize went to Vincent Lafforgue, who made impressive contributions to various areas of mathematics, especially to the Langlands program in the function field case. In 2022, the Academy of Sciences elected Lafforgue to its assembly of scientists, who are amongst the most eminent in their fields. Last year, Lafforgue also took his place on the Selection Committee for the 2023 Breakthrough Prize.

Yuri Milner: The Giving Pledge and Breakthrough Prize

In 2012, Julia and Yuri Milner signed the Giving Pledge, agreeing to commit a large portion of their lifetime wealth to projects that should enhance scientific advances. As part of their Giving Pledge commitment, they then founded the Breakthrough Prize with Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan, Mark Zuckerberg, and Anne Wojciki.

Yuri Milner has always been fascinated with the idea of intelligent life in the Universe and other scientific notions. After studying physics and business and founding a successful technology company, he turned his hand to launching and funding scientific initiatives, from the Breakthrough Prize to the Breakthrough Junior Challenge and Breakthrough Initiatives