From Cancer to Quantum Field Theories: Yuri Milner’s 2024 Breakthrough Prize Honours Researchers in Diverse Fields

Billionaire, Giving Pledge philanthropist, and Eureka Manifesto author Yuri Milner co-founded the Breakthrough Prize in 2012. (Three years later, he founded the Breakthrough Junior Challenge and the Breakthrough Initiatives.)

Since then, the Breakthrough Prize has awarded $308 million to accomplished researchers in life sciences, maths, and fundamental physics.

These are some of the research areas to which the 2024 Breakthrough Prize laureates have contributed.

Life Sciences

  • Cancer treatment. Michel Sadelain and Carl June won a Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for their work in oncology. The researchers have developed a revolutionary cancer treatment: Their immunotherapy method modifies a patient’s T cells (a kind of white blood cell) to target and kill cancer cells.
  • Cystic fibrosis. Sabine Hadida, Paul Negulescu, and Fredrick Van Goor won a Life Sciences prize for their work developing medicines to treat cystic fibrosis. The trio developed different drug combinations that fix the defective protein in patients with the condition.
  • Parkinson’s disease. Thomas Gasser, Ellen Sidransky, and Andrew Singleton won a Life Sciences prize for identifying GBA1 and LRRK2, the two genes most likely to cause Parkinson’s disease.


  • Differential geometry. Simon Brendle won the Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics for his transformative contributions to the field, which looks at the geometry of smooth shapes and smooth spaces. Brendle’s work in this area includes sharp geometric inequalities, Ricci flow, mean curvature flow, and the Lawson conjecture on minimal tori in the 3-sphere.
  • Arithmetic geometry. Michael Groechenig won a New Horizons in Mathematics Prize for contributing to the theory of rigid local systems and other concepts in arithmetic geometry.
  • Mathematical physics. Mayuko Yamashita won a Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prize for contributions to this research field, which concerns the application of maths to problems in physics. Yamashita has also contributed to the mathematical area of index theory.

Fundamental Physics

  • Quantum field theory. John Cardy and Alexander Zamolodchikov won the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for their profound contributions to this far-reaching theoretical framework. The award also recognises their work in statistical physics.
  • The Large Scale Structure (LSS) of the Universe. Mikhail Ivanov, Oliver Philcox, and Marko Simonović won a New Horizons in Physics Prize for their work studying the structure of the cosmos at the galactic scale. The trio also found ways to use that knowledge to bring new insights to fundamental physics.

Learn more about the 2024 Breakthrough Prize winners.

About Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Foundation

Science philanthropist and technology investor Yuri Milner founded the Breakthrough Foundation in 2012. The charitable foundation supports several programmes, including:

  • The Breakthrough Prize.
  • The Breakthrough Junior Challenge.
  • The Breakthrough Initiatives.
  • Tech For Refugees.

The Breakthrough Prize celebrates scientific achievement by recognising and rewarding the world’s top scientists and mathematicians. Each year, the Breakthrough Prize honours its laureates at a gala award ceremony.

The Breakthrough Junior Challenge encourages people aged 13-18 worldwide to engage with scientific ideas. Taking the form of an annual competition, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge invites teenagers to create short videos that illuminate a big idea or theory in science or maths.

The Breakthrough Initiatives are a series of programmes dedicated to exploring and advancing our understanding of the Universe. Breakthrough Listen, the first Breakthrough Initiative, launched in 2015 and uses cutting-edge telescopes to search for evidence of extraterrestrial signals.

Tech For Refugees is a non-profit initiative that supports the tech-powered humanitarian efforts of its partner organisations. Since launching in spring 2022, Tech For Refugees has worked with, Spotify, and other tech partners.