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Google, Facebook Executives Award $33 Million in Prizes

Executives from Facebook Inc. and Google Inc. awarded $33 million in prizes to support research aimed at curing diseases and extending life.

The Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences is giving $3 million each to 11 winners in its first year, the foundation that administers the program said in a statement. Going forward, five annual prizes of $3 million each will be granted.

The award was established by Genentech Inc. and Apple Inc. Chairman Art Levinson, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, 23andMe Inc. Chief Executive Officer Anne Wojcicki, Group Ltd. co-founder Yuri Milner, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Priscilla Chan, a physician who is married to Zuckerberg. Prizes are given to scientists pursuing research “aimed at curing intractable diseases and extending human life,” according to the statement.

“Our society needs more heroes that are scientists and engineers,” Zuckerberg said today at an event in San Francisco announcing the awards. “One of the things that is fundamentally different is the winners are going to pick the winners going forward.”

Recipients of the first batch of awards include professors from Princeton University, Weill Cornell Medical College, Hubrecht Institute in the Netherlands, and Harvard Medical School.

The selection process allows anyone to nominate a candidate online for consideration. There are no age restrictions and the prize can be shared between any number of scientists. Winners will be invited to present public talks.

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