You might have noticed in today’s news that three Silicon Valley squillionaires have funded a new megabucks prize for life sciences, the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences. The 11 initial winners get a cool $3 million (three MILLION dollars) straight from the chequebooks of Mark Zuckerberg (Mr Facebook), Sergey Brin (Mr Google) and Yuri Milner (the other one). Actually, do they still have chequebooks in Silicon Valley? Probably not.

The winners also get the job honour of selecting the winners of future awards – unlike some other awards you might be familiar with, it will be possible for more than three people to win the prize in any one year.

The prize closely mirrors the Fundamental Physics Prize that Milner set up last year. They have the same $3million prize and last year’s nine winners will pick this year’s lucky physicists.

Judging by the news coverage, it looks like a lot of people are thinking ‘Move over Alfred, there are some new prizes in town!’ Of course, there are plenty of other prizes in town, and almost always have been. It’s just that the world at large recognises the Nobels alone as being worthy of mass press attention, and it’s the only one that elevates its winners to a status endured enjoyed by pretty much nobody else. For example, check out the winners of the Priestley medal of the ACS, the Davy or Copley medals of the Royal Society – I can’t see a single name there that isn’t Nobel-worthy.

But enough of my pontificating about the Nobel prize (you’ve probably read it all before) – here’s what I really want to know:

Will Zuckerberg and co pony up for a dollartastic prize for chemistry?

Will the chemistry Nobel prize committee see all those biomedical scientists with bulging pockets and try to give their prize to some proper chemists a bit more often?!

Neil Withers

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Give us some money, Zuckerberg!, 7.0 out of 10 based on 3 ratings
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