“Oscars of Science” Awards $3 Million Prizes for Advances against Cancer, Cystic Fibrosis, Parkinson’s Disease; Deep Insights into Quantum Field Theory and Differential Geometry.
Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Awarded to Carl June and Michel Sadelain; Sabine Hadida, Paul Negulescu and Fredrick Van Goor; Thomas Gasser, Ellen Sidransky and Andrew Singleton.
Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics Awarded to John Cardy and Alexander Zamolodchikov.
Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics Awarded to Simon Brendle.
Six New Horizons Prizes Awarded for Early-Career Achievements in Physics and Mathematics.
Three Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prizes Awarded to Women Mathematicians for Early-Career Achievements.
Laureates to be Honored at Gala Award Ceremony in Los Angeles on April 13, 2024.
September 14, 2023 – San Francisco – The Breakthrough Prize Foundation today announced the winners of the 2024 Breakthrough Prizes, honoring an esteemed group of the world’s most brilliant minds for impactful scientific discoveries, including a subset responsible for substantial progress in the understanding and treatment of major diseases.
Science is an endless revolution. Diseases that looked unbeatable twenty years ago can now be managed or cured. Our deepest physics theories explain the world to staggering precision. And in the realm of mathematics, new ideas are reaching into the borderlands of the unknown. The Breakthrough Prize – popularly known as the “Oscars of Science” – was created to celebrate the wonders of our scientific age by founding sponsors Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, Julia and Yuri Milner, and Anne Wojcicki.
The Prize’s latest slate of laureates are driving this revolution onwards. They include 11 winners of the Breakthrough Prizes in Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics, and Mathematics, sharing five $3 million prizes between them; 12 early-career physicists and mathematicians sharing six $100,000 New Horizons in Physics Prizes; and three women mathematicians who recently completed their PhDs, each receiving a $50,000 Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prize. This year’s prize money comes to a total of $15.75 million, bringing the amount conferred over the thirteen years of the Breakthrough Prize to $308 million.
This year’s Life Sciences laureates include honorees recognized for key advances in the fight against three major diseases – cancer, cystic fibrosis, and Parkinson’s disease.
Carl June and Michel Sadelain genetically engineered T cells – key players in the body’s immune system – with synthetic receptors termed chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) to instruct T cells to recognize the cancer cells of individual patients. These CAR T cells have remarkable rates of success against liquid cancers including types of leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. For some patients, the tumors have been entirely eradicated and have not returned, years after treatment.
Sabine Hadida, Paul Negulescu and Fredrick Van Goor invented the first effective medicines to treat the underlying cause of cystic fibrosis. This deadly disease of the lungs and other organs is caused by a protein that can’t do its job of allowing ions in and out of cells. These researchers discovered four medicines, the latest of which is a triple combination medicine, that enables the protein to function, greatly improving quality of life – and length of life – for people with this disease.
Thomas Gasser, Ellen Sidransky and Andrew Singleton discovered the most common genetic causes of Parkinson’s Disease. Sidransky identified mutations to the gene GBA1, which encodes an enzyme that breaks down fatty substances in cells, as a genetic risk factor for Parkinson’s; while Gasser and Singleton independently showed that mutations in the LRRK2 gene result in increased activity of a protein believed to contribute to neuronal damage in the disease. These discoveries offer clues to the mechanisms that cause the disease, pointing to the role of the lysosome, the cellular organelle that degrades and recycles cellular components.
In fundamental physics, John Cardy and Alexander Zamolodchikov have contributed a lifetime of deep insights into quantum field theories, which describe not only particle physics, but emergent phenomena from magnetism and superconducting materials to the information content of black holes, and have also become a rich field of study in mathematics.
Mathematician Simon Brendle has contributed a series of remarkable leaps in differential geometry, a field that uses the tools of calculus to study curves, surfaces and spaces. Many of his results concern the shape of surfaces, as well as manifolds in higher dimensions than those we experience in everyday life.
“The work of these laureates is very impressive – whether it’s exploring abstract ideas or unraveling the causes of human diseases and producing effective treatments that impact millions of lives.”
– Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg
“Humanity’s collective intelligence is our most significant achievement. Great scientists, and Breakthrough Prize laureates among them, are at the forefront of this incredible phenomenon in our Universe.”
– Yuri Milner
“Every year I’m inspired by the ideas, discoveries and commitment to progress of the women and men who win the Breakthrough Prize.”
– Anne Wojcicki
“Oscars of Science”
Select Photos from the April 2023 Breakthrough Prize Ceremony
The laureates will be celebrated next April 13th at the 10th annual Breakthrough Prize ceremony, held in Los Angeles. The Breakthrough Prize ceremony is the only one of its kind that places scientists on center stage, and is attended by luminaries in film, sports, comedy, and music, to lend their spotlight to shine on scientists.
Last year’s ceremony – the first in Los Angeles – was hosted by James Corden and featured Kristen Bell, Magnus Carlsen, Lily Collins, Danny DeVito, Robert Downey Jr., Gal Gadot, Mae Jemison, Brie Larson, Edward Norton, Leslie Odom Jr., Chris Pine, Lauren Ridloff and Chloé Zhao, with music from John Legend, will.i.am and Estelle. Video highlights and photos can be found here.
Early-career researchers across a range of fields are also recognized, including nine researchers making big strides in astronomy and cosmology. New Horizons in Physics Prizes recognize Michael Johnson and Alexandru Lupsasca, for their studies of photon rings – light trapped in orbit around black holes – and their work showing how they can be detected with future experiments; Laura M. Pérez, Paola Pinilla, Nienke van der Marel and Til Birnstiel, who discovered and characterized dust traps – regions of dynamic rings of gas and dust around stars where dust particles aggregate; and Mikhail Ivanov, Oliver Philcox and Marko Simonović, who studied the structure of the cosmos at the galactic scale, and found ways to use that knowledge to bring fresh insights to fundamental physics.
Physics and mathematics today are deeply interconnected, with discoveries from one discipline frequently lending powerful tools and concepts to the other. This year, the New Horizons in Mathematics Prize is awarded to Roland Bauerschmidt for his work in probability theory and the renormalization group – a concept that emerged from the quantum field theories studied by this year’s Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics winners, and has become an important object of study in mathematics. Angkana Rüland is honored for work also touching on ideas derived from physics, such as transitions between states of matter, which are now studied in mathematical fields including analysis, the branch of pure mathematics that emerged from calculus. And Michael Groechenig receives the Prize for his insights into arithmetic geometry.
For work in algebraic geometry, Hannah Larson wins the Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prize; alongside Laura Monk for her discoveries about hyperbolic surfaces; and Mayuko Yamashita, for contributions to mathematical physics and index theory.
Full Citations for 2024 Laureates
2024 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences
Carl H. June, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
Michel Sadelain, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
For the development of chimeric antigen receptor T cell immunotherapy whereby the patient’s T cells are modified to target and kill cancer cells.
Sabine Hadida, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
Paul Negulescu, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
Fredrick Van Goor, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
For developing life-transforming drug combinations that repair the defective chloride channel protein in patients with cystic fibrosis.
Thomas Gasser, Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research, University of Tübingen and German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases
Ellen Sidransky, National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health
Andrew Singleton, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health
For identifying GBA1 and LRRK2 as risk genes for Parkinson’s disease, implicating autophagy and lysosomal biology as critical contributors to the pathogenesis of the disease.
2024 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics
John Cardy, All Souls College, University of Oxford
Alexander Zamolodchikov, Stony Brook University
For profound contributions to statistical physics and quantum field theory, with diverse and far-reaching applications in different branches of physics and mathematics.
2024 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics
Simon Brendle, Columbia University
For transformative contributions to differential geometry, including sharp geometric inequalities, many results on Ricci flow and mean curvature flow and the Lawson conjecture on minimal tori in the 3-sphere.
2024 New Horizons in Physics Prize
Michael Johnson, Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian
Alexandru Lupsasca, Vanderbilt University
For elucidating the sub-structure and universal characteristics of black hole photon rings, and their proposed detection by next-generation interferometric experiments.
Mikhail Ivanov, MIT
Oliver Philcox, Columbia University and Simons Foundation
Marko Simonović, University of Florence
For contributions to our understanding of the large-scale structure of the universe and the development of new tools to extract fundamental physics from galaxy surveys.
Laura M. Pérez, Universidad de Chile
Paola Pinilla, University College London
Nienke van der Marel, Leiden Observatory
Til Birnstiel, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
For the prediction, discovery, and modeling of dust traps in young circumstellar disks, solving a long-standing problem in planet formation.
2024 New Horizons in Mathematics Prize
Roland Bauerschmidt, New York University
For outstanding contributions to probability theory and the development of renormalisation group techniques.
Michael Groechenig, University of Toronto
For contributions to the theory of rigid local systems and applications of p-adic integration to mirror symmetry and the fundamental lemma.
Angkana Rüland, University of Bonn
For contributions to applied analysis, in particular the analysis of microstructure in solid-solid phase transitions and the theory of inverse problems.
2024 Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prize
Hannah Larson, University of California, Berkeley (PhD Stanford University 2022)
For advances in Brill-Noether theory and the geometry of the moduli space of curves.
Laura Monk, University of Bristol (PhD University of Strasbourg 2021)
For advancing our understanding of random hyperbolic surfaces of large genus.
Mayuko Yamashita, Kyoto University (PhD University of Tokyo 2022)
For contributions to mathematical physics, index theory.
Videos and Photos Can Be Downloaded Here
About The Breakthrough Prize
For the 12th year, the Breakthrough Prize, renowned as the “Oscars of Science,” recognizes the world’s top scientists. Each prize is $3 million and presented in the fields of Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics and Mathematics. In addition, up to three New Horizons in Physics Prizes, up to three New Horizons in Mathematics Prizes and up to three Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prizes are given out to early-career researchers each year. Laureates attend a gala award ceremony designed to celebrate their achievements and inspire the next generation of scientists.
The Breakthrough Prizes were founded by Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, Julia and Yuri Milner, and Anne Wojcicki and have been sponsored by foundations established by them. Selection Committees composed of previous Breakthrough Prize laureates in each field choose the winners. Information on the Breakthrough Prize is available at breakthroughprize.org.
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