The 2013 winners announced for the Breakthrough Prize in Lifesciences


“A high-profile, spectacular recognition,” says Marc Tessier-Lavigne, the Rockefeller University’s president.

Dr Cori Bergmann, of Rockefeller University

Dr Cori Bergmann

Dr Cori Bergmann

Scientist recipient #1 researches the role of genes in brain connections (neural circuits) and what effects them. Genes in the brain control behavior and function by receiving a signal and acting on this information via a fixed pathway. This scientist’s work has identified sensory inputs, genes which respond to them through their fixed pathways and hence, how sensory inputs control or regulate such genes.

Dr Titia de Lange, of Rockefeller University

Dr. Titia De Lange

Dr. Titia De Lange

Scientist recipient #2 researches what detects and repairs DNA and prevents cancer (telomeres and shelterin complex). The telomere complex repairs damage to the body from dangerous elements. Early in cancer development, telomere function gets erroded. This scientist’s work clarified how the loss of the telomere-shelterin complex function can drive cancer forward.

The Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Foundation

Administers the Three million dollar annual Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, which recognizes excellence in research aimed at curing intractable diseases and extended human life. the prize is founded by Art Levinson, chairman of the board of Apple and former CEO of Genentech; Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google Inc.; Anne Wojcicki, co-founder of 23andMe; Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, and his wife Pricilla Chan; and Yuri Milner, founder of the Russian internet company Mail.ru.

What does this prize mean for you?
This prize assures you that you and your loved ones are not suffering alone in cancer and brain/behavior malfunctions. There are dedicated scientists, working diligently, step-by-step to discover the marvellous mystery of how the living thing lives, breathes, thinks, behaves, malfunctions, gets sick, and responds to environmental toxins like pesticides, herbicides, or food toxins like high fructose corn syrup or metal toxins like lead. Most scientists work simply for the joy of discovery. They work long hours, late into the night for very little pay. Many of you might even laugh at them calling them names like “gheto dwellers” because many brains arrive from foreign countries and dry their clothes on clothes lines to save money instead of using the dryer in the laundromat. Others might laugh at them because these scientists cannot afford cars in large college campuses and walk miles to pick up their weekly groceries. Yet, they work with happiness, and courage.

Many of you have chosen not to take science courses in college and therefore, do not understand how marvellous the mystery of the complex cellular organism is. When you are on funding agencies, you simply cannot understand why an experiment might take years to show results. You might even poke fun at these “lazy, poor, gheto nerds”. You might be reminded that a typical cell under research has a life cycle of several hours to several days, with embryo and stem cell study cell life cycles taking several months.

This prize assures you that people who are capable of judging the progress of science are keeping you infomred. This prize assures you that dedicated people are taking care of you, actually excellent care of you, even though you might not even have the time to stop and contact them and show your appreciation. This prize assures you that a scientist you appreciate is being rewarded with a lot of money, long deserved – probably far better deserved than many other fields of work that contribute nothing, produce nothing and yet, are capable of great destruction.

What you can do

This prize assures you that you are taken care of. Perhaps, you can take charge and create more such foundations that reward long-term, pain-staking scientific enquiry in your community scientists, in your local university; hard working people whom you might have ignored and called “poor” and who might not get recognized internationally but are contributing daily, and happily.

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