Move over, Nobel Prize, there's a new pot of gold that every life science researcher is looking to dip into. Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan, and a founding group of sponsors have pooled $33 million dollars toward "Breakthrough Prizes" in the Life Sciences. Priscilla, best known as being Zuckerberg's wife, is a scientista herself; she graduated from medical school at the University of California, San Francisco and hopes to become a pediatrician according to the NYT. The other founders and sponsors include Google Co-founder Sergey Brin, his spouse, Anne Wojcicki, and tech investor Yuri Milner.
Among the first 11 recipients are two inspirational scientistas, Cornelia Bargmann and Titia De Lange. The laureates each received $3M for their research and will serve on the selection committee to choose the next round of winners.
Cornelia Bargmann was recognized for "the genetics of neural circuits and behavior, and synaptic guidepost molecules." She is a Torsten N. Wiesel Professor, Head of the Lulu and Anthony Wang Laboratory of Neural Circuits and Behavior at the Rockefeller University, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.
Titia De Lange was awarded for "research on telomeres, illuminating how they protect chromosome ends and their role in genome instability in cancer." She is a Leon Hess Professor, Head of the Laboratory of Cell Biology and Genetics, and Director of the Anderson Center for Cancer Research at the Rockefeller University.
Though I am thrilled and inspired by the recipients, I can't help but notice that less than 20% of the recipients were women. Hopefully De Lange and Bargmann will help close the gender gap in the next round of life sciences awards, as women are more represented in life sciences than in other STEM fields.