Meet this year's winners of the $22M Breakthrough Prizes

The Breakthrough Prize group on Sunday night handed out $22 million in awards to researchers and scientists, including a $3 million prize to a researcher whose discovery could be key in the fight against cancer.

Access our take on the latest clinical innovations in oncology

The Breakthrough Prizes were founded in 2012 by a group of high-profile tech mavens, including Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, and Anne Wojcicki, co-founder of the personal genetic testing company 23andMe.

The awards aim "to celebrate the achievements of scientists, physicists, and mathematicians, whose genius help us understand our world, and whose advances shape our future," Zuckerberg said in a release. "The world needs their inspiration, and their reminder that even though it doesn't always feel that way, we are making steady progress toward building a better future for everyone."

The black tie event—designed to treat scientists like rock stars—featured an Oscar-style red carpet, appearances by celebrities, and entertainment by Wiz Khalifa and musician Nana Ou-Yang.

The winners

The Breakthrough Prize group handed out seven $3 million awards, along with several smaller awards.

Several winners worked in fields related to health and biology, including:

  • Don Cleveland of the University of California, San Diego's Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, who received a $3 million award for his work on the molecular pathogenesis of neurological diseases, such as ALS and Alzheimer's;

  • Kazutoshi Mori of Kyoto University, who received a $3 million award for his work on the quality control systems within cells that fix disease-causing unfolded proteins and instruct cells to respond;

  • Kim Nasmyth of Oxford University, who received a $3 million award for her work in cell division that explored the separation of duplicated chromosomes—a discovery that could be key in the fight against genetic diseases, including some cancers; and

  • Peter Walter of the University of California, San Francisco and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, who received a $3 million award for his work on how cells can detect unfolded proteins that could potentially cause disease (AP/Washington Post, 12/4; Thielking, "Morning Rounds," STAT News, 12/4; Drake, National Geographic, 12/3; Breakthrough Prize release, 12/3).

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