New life science prize goes to 11 established scientists

A group of Internet entrepreneurs has established the world’s richest prize for work in medicine and biology. The $3 million award is more than twice the amount of the Nobel Prize. This week, 11 scientists were named the first winners of the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.

Many of them are researching the genetics of cell growth, and how it can go wrong to cause cancer.

The annual award was created by Russian venture capitalist Yuri Milner and other high-tech philanthropists, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

Milner began recognizing physicists last year, with the Fundamental Physics Prizes. The next round of those $3 million awards will be announced March 20 in Geneva. His goal with both prizes, he says, is to raise public awareness of scientists who have spent their lives advancing human knowledge.

The Breakthrough Prize has already been criticized for focusing on established researchers, rather than the many scientists who collaborate to foster advancement. But future recipients will be selected by previous winners, who may be more aware of the rising stars and unsung heroes in their fields.

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