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Breakthrough Prize given for Alzheimer's research

By Tim Sandle     Jan 28, 2016 in Health
Since 2013 an annual prize has been awarded for the most significant breakthrough in research major sciences. This year the prize has gone to research into Alzheimer's disease. Backed by big companies, the prize is now worth $3 million.
The Breakthrough Prize has a remit of awarding a prize to a body of research that has contributed to the improvement or extension of human life. This can be in one of the following categories: Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics and Mathematics. Valued at $3 million, the prize is valued at double that of the Nobel Prize.
The $3 million award comes with a commitment for the winning researcher to travel the world giving lectures about their research and promoting public education. The focus on one single scientist is captured in the Prize’s mission statement, which runs: “Knowledge is humanity’s greatest asset. It defines our nature, and it will shape our future. The body of knowledge is assembled over centuries. Yet a single mind can extend it immensely.”
The prize is backed by big names in the technology field, including Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan of Facebook; Sergey Brin from Google; Yuri Milner (who is an investor); and Anne Wojcicki (from the controversial genetics company 23andMe). The selection committee is chaired by Arthur D. Levinson from Apple. The prize ceremony is a big event, more akin to something from the entertainments industry.
The 2016 award has been given to neuroscientist Dr. John Hardy for his research into Alzheimer’s disease. Hardy received his award at a ceremony held at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. The master of ceremonies was comedian Seth McFarlane.
Dr. Hardy’s research has focused on the underlying genetic causes of Alzheimer’s disease. His most pioneering work has been with specific gene mutations that are connected with the disease. This was drawn from a study of a family in the U.K. where Alzheimer’s disease was disproportionately common. He found that chromosome 21 encoded an amyloid precursor protein, and that amyloid pathology is connected to Alzheimer’s disease. Hardy’s laboratory undertook full gene sequencing and identified a causative mutation.
Dr. Hardy later undertook research into the gene mutation and a protein termed tau, examining the connections here and the destruction of brain cells.
Quoted by Laboratory Roots, Dr. Hardy stated: “It was an astonishing event. It was great fun, but I was relieved when it was all over, too.”
More about Alzheimer's disease, breakthrough prize, science prize, Science, Medical
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