Two users of the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science’s Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne National Laboratory were named “Breakthrough Prize” winners in life sciences on Sunday evening, as part of an awards gala that brought together superstars of Hollywood, Silicon Valley and the scientific world.
Winning $3 million each were Harry F. Noller, Director of the Center of Molecular Biology of RNA at the University of California, Santa Cruz; and Stephen J. Elledge, Gregor Mendel Professor of Genetics and Medicine in the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School. Both have used the high-brightness X-ray beams at the APS in their work: Noller at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and National Cancer Institute structural biology facility and Elledge at the Northeastern Collaborative Access Team facility.
The Breakthrough Prizes were started five years ago by a handful of top Silicon Valley investors and leaders: Google’s Sergey Brin and entrepreneur Anne Wojcicki; Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan; and Russian entrepreneur and physicist Yuri Milner and his wife Julia Milner.
This year, the group awarded a total of $25 million in several categories.
Dr. Elledge was honored for “elucidating how eukaryotic cells sense and respond to damage in their DNA and providing insights into the development and treatment of cancer,” according to the Breakthrough Prize.
Dr. Noller was honored for “discovering the centrality of RNA in forming the active centers of the ribosome, the fundamental machinery of protein synthesis in all cells, thereby connecting modern biology to the origin of life and also explaining how many natural antibiotics disrupt protein synthesis,” according to the Breakthrough Prize text.