The Breakthrough Prize is the Oscars of Science

Breakthrough Prize, Red Carpet Bay Area
Karolina Kurkova, Devika Bhise, Lily Collins, Kara McCullough

With performances from four-time Grammy winner Lionel Richie and China’s Artist of the Year G.E.M., a laudatory list of Hollywood heavyweights, and an eyebrow-raising roster of Silicon Valley elites, it is no wonder that the Breakthrough Prize Ceremony is known as the “Oscars of Science.”

Scenes from the Breakthrough Prize Ceremony on November 4, 2018, at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California:

The Breakthrough Prize Ceremony

Host Pierce Brosnan along with Orlando Bloom, Ron Howard, Julianne Moore, Thandie Newton, and Lupita Nyong’o presented the awards which recognized achievements in the fields of life sciences, fundamental physics, and mathematics. The 2019 prize awarded a collective total of $22 million to nine researchers. Breakthrough foundation sponsors included Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, Ma Huateng, Yuri and Julia Milner and Anne Wojcicki.

The discoveries recognized with the 2019 Breakthrough Prize:

Life Sciences:

  • A spectacularly successful gene therapy drug, Spinraza, that treats Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a deadly infant disease
  • A super-resolution imaging technology that transcends traditional light microscopy revealing entirely new internal structures of cells
  • The revelation of a mechanism by which cells detect foreign DNA and trigger an immune response, with implications for cancer and autoimmune diseases
  • Insight into how abnormal numbers of chromosomes are implicated in almost all cancers and can otherwise wreak havoc in the human body

Fundamental Physics:

  • Mind-bending theoretical advances including the discovery of a new class of electronic materials that simultaneously conduct and resist electricity and could prove transformative for quantum computing


Photos by Drew Altizer Photography