Silicon Valley’s red-carpet night for scientists

Published on SFgate, by James Temple, Dec 14, 2013.

Silicon Valley staged its take on the Oscars last week, hosting a black-tie affair that felt every bit like the Hollywood variety – except that you’ve probably never heard of any of the winners.

And that was kind of the point.  

The Breakthrough Prize event at NASA’s Ames Research Center Thursday was designed to honor the world’s leading minds in life sciences and physics by offering them the star treatment usually reserved for actors, athletes and musicians. The red carpet was lined by cameras and reporters, the French Laundry’s Thomas Keller prepared the meal, actor Kevin Spacey hosted the show and (almost) everyone arrived in tuxedos or gowns.

“Albert Einstein was celebrated as a kind of scientific rock star before there were actual rock stars,” said Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook and a sponsor of the event, during the first presentation. “This event is our effort to put the spotlight on those whose work will change lives for generations to come.”

Array of accomplishments – The 2014 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences winners are:

  • James Allison of the Anderson Cancer Center, for the discovery of a T cell checkpoint blockade as effective cancer therapy.
  • Mahlon DeLong of Emory University, for defining the interlocking circuits in the brain that malfunction in Parkinson’s disease.
  • Michael Hall of the University of Basel, for the discovery of Target of Rapamycin (TOR) and its role in cell growth control.
  • Robert Langer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for discoveries leading to the development of controlled drug-release systems and new biomaterials.
  • Richard Lifton of Yale University, for the discovery of genes and biochemical mechanisms that cause hypertension.
  • And Alexander Varshavsky of the California Institute of Technology, for discovering critical molecular determinants and biological functions of intracellular protein degradation.

The 2014 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics was shared by Michael Green of the University of Cambridge and John Schwarz of the California Institute of Technology “for opening new perspectives on quantum gravity and the unification of forces.”

$3 million prizes: … //

… (full text).


Michelle Bachelet:

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