Eleven scientists have become multimillionaires after winning an inaugural Breakthrough Prize for Life Sciences.
They will each get $3 million – more than twice as much as the award money for a Nobel Prize.
The prize was established by some of the world’s best-known technology tycoons, including Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google; Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg; and venture capitalist Yury Milner of Russia.
Of the 11 winners, nine are based at U.S. universities and institutions, while the two others come from Japan and the Netherlands.
The money is intended to help the scientists carry out their research into cancer, genetics, and stem cells.
In the future, the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Foundation plans to annually award five prizes of $3 million each.
The foundation says it wants to create excitement about science and reward researchers working to extend human life.
"I just think our society needs more heroes who are scientists and researchers and engineers," Facebook's Zuckerberg said.
Google’s Brin said he believes scientists should be regarded more highly than sports stars because of the benefits they can bring to human health and longevity.
Another of the foundation’s directors, Anne Wojcicki , founder of the genetics company 23andMe and wife of Brin, said the foundation hopes for progress on ailments such as Parkinson’s, which runs in her husband’s family.
"The quest for a cure for Parkinson's is very personal for us because my mother-in-law has it, my husband is high risk," she said. "So I think everybody has something in the family. And everyone wants to live healthy, long lives."
The Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Foundation describes itself as a nonprofit corporation "dedicated to advancing breakthrough research, celebrating scientists and generating excitement about the pursuit of science as a career."
It says the new prizes will be awarded for "past achievements in the field of life sciences, with the aim of providing the recipients with more freedom and opportunity to pursue even greater future accomplishments."
The foundation also says that anyone around the world will be able to go online to nominate a candidate for consideration for a prize. It says a single prize could be awarded to more than one scientist, and that winners can be honored than once. It says there are no age restrictions for nominees.
Venture capitalist Milner called the prizes the “largest scientific award in existence."
This year’s 11 winners include Cornelia Bargmann of Rockefeller University; David Botstein of Princeton University; Lewis Cantley of Weill Cornell Medical College; Hans Clevers of the Hubrecht Institute in the Netherlands; Napoleone Ferrara of the University of California, San Diego; Titia de Lange of Rockefeller University; Eric Lander of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Charles Sawyers of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; Bert Vogelstein of Johns Hopkins University; Robert Weinberg of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and 2012 Nobel laureate Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University in Japan.
With reporting by dpa, AFP,and Sciencemag.org