Science Takes Center Stage at the 2024 Breakthrough Prize Ceremony

Science Takes Center Stage at the 2024 Breakthrough Prize Ceremony

This story was created in partnership with The Breakthrough Prize.

Science and pop culture are seen as worlds apart. But the Breakthrough Prize is on a mission to bring them together. The world’s largest science prize—which awards at least five $3 million prizes each year for major contributions to physics, life sciences, and mathematicsis drawing scientists into the orbit of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

Founded in 2012 by Sergey Brin (co-founder of Google), Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook), Priscilla Chan (co-founder of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative), Julia & Yuri Milner (technology investor & science philanthropist), and Anne Wojcicki (co-founder of 23andMe), the Breakthrough Prize celebrates advances in fundamental science—with hopes of raising the profile of great scientists in pop culture, inspiring the public and motivating more young people to pursue careers in science. (As part of this mission, the prize also honors one high school student a year through the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, a global science video competition for students ages 13-18.)

Since its founding, the glittering star-studded ceremony has left traditional science awards in the shade, garnering a reputation as the “Oscars of Science” due to its impressive production values and the major entertainment talent in attendance, and generating billions of media impressions worldwide. Kristen Bell, Vin Diesel, Gal Gadot, Kate Hudson, Chris Pine, Lupita Nyong’o, Pharrell Williams, John Legend and Lionel Richie are just some of the presenters and performers who have graced the show in past years.

This will be the tenth Breakthrough Prize ceremony, and the milestone will be celebrated in style on April 13 at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. Hosted by actor and comedian James Corden, it will feature stars including Robert Downey Jr., Kim Kardashian, Alicia Keys, Venus Williams, and Michelle Yeoh, in front of a crowd that boasts the world’s greatest athletes, Hollywood stars, musicians and entrepreneurs alongside scientists. The glamorous 2024 show will surely be one for the books—especially since it will be produced by Vanity Fair and Don Mischer Productions, whose work includes the Oscars, Emmys, Olympic Games openings, and Super Bowl halftime shows.

Every year, Breakthrough Prize laureates are selected for outstanding contributions to human knowledge—including human biology and diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. The laureates celebrated this year include 11 winners of the $3 million Breakthrough Prizes in Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics, and Mathematics; 12 early-career physicists and mathematicians; and three Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prizes recognizing young women mathematicians.

Life science laureates Carl H. June and Michel Sadelain re-engineered T cells—key players in the body’s immune system—to be able to recognize cancer cells of individual patients, creating a highly effective treatment against liquid cancers, including some aggressive leukemias. These scientists’ work is proving transformative: some patients’ tumors have been entirely eradicated, without returning even years after treatment.

Other life science laureates include Demis Hassabis and John Jumper for designing the revolutionary AlphaFold—a machine learning system that accurately predicts the structure of proteins, one of the toughest puzzles to crack in all of biology; Thomas Gasser, Ellen Sidransky, Andrew Singleton and Richard Youle, who discovered the most common genetic causes and key mechanisms of Parkinson’s Disease; and Sabine Hadida, Paul Negulescu and Fredrick Van Goor, who invented life-changing treatments for cystic fibrosis, creating drugs that target the deadly disease’s root cause and greatly improve the qualityand length—of life for people living with this condition.

In fundamental physics, awards go to Hidetoshi Katori and Jun Ye, who built atomic clocks so accurate that they would lose less than a second in 15 billion years; and to John Cardy and Alexander Zamolodchikov for profound contributions to statistical physics and quantum field theory. Their work extends from particle physics to magnetic and superconducting materials and even black holes.

In mathematics, Simon Brendle is being celebrated for advances in differential geometry, a field that uses the tools of calculus to study smooth surfaces and spaces. Many of his results concern manifolds in higher dimensions.

Anne Wojcicki, co-founder of the Prize and founder of 23andMe, commented, “Every year I’m inspired by the ideas, discoveries and commitment to progress of the women and men who win the Breakthrough Prize.”

Check out the Breakthrough Prize YouTube channel on Sunday, April 21, to witness Hollywood celebrating science.

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