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Broad Institute Director Eric Lander Wins $3 Million Breakthrough Prize

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 22, 2013—Eric Lander, director of the Broad Institute, has been named one of 11 inaugural winners of the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences. The $3 million award is the largest academic prize for medicine and biology, more than double the amount of the Nobel Prize.

The Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Foundation, chaired by Art Levinson, chairman of Apple and chairman and former CEO of Genentech, established the award to recognize excellence in “research aimed at curing intractable diseases and extending human life.” The prizes are funded by entrepreneurs Yuri Milner, Sergey Brin, Anne Wojcicki, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg. Wojcicki told the New York Times that the prize was intended to reward scientists “who think big, take risks and have made a significant impact on our lives… These scientists should be household names and heroes in society.”

Lander was recognized for his pioneering work in genomics. Before he became the founding director of the Broad Institute, Lander led the Human Genome Project. In 2008, President Obama named Lander to serve as co-chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

“Edye and I could not be prouder of the work that Eric is leading at the Broad Institute,” said Philanthropist Eli Broad. “His leadership and his commitment to revolutionize the way we conduct science and make those research findings freely available to the world will no doubt lead to the medical discoveries that ultimately improve the human condition.”

In addition to leading the Broad Institute, Lander continues to teach introductory biology to undergraduates at MIT. For the past 20 years, he has taught that course to more than half of all MIT students. Beginning March 5, he will teach his class online free to thousands of students around the world through Harvard and MIT’s online learning platform, EdX. Lander said he will use part of the $3 million from the Breakthrough Prize to support that effort.

The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT was founded in 2003 to empower this generation of creative scientists to transform medicine with new genome-based knowledge. The Broad Institute seeks to describe all the molecular components of life and their connections; discover the molecular basis of major human diseases; develop effective new approaches to diagnostics and therapeutics; and disseminate discoveries, tools, methods and data openly to the entire scientific community. Philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad have given $600 million to create and endow the Broad Institute, which has more than 2,000 faculty, professional staff and students from throughout the MIT and Harvard biomedical research communities and collaborations across more than 100 private and public institutions in some 40 countries.

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