Winner. Life scientist Cornelia Bargmann of Rockefeller University was one winner of a new $3 million prize. Zach Veilleux/The Rockefeller University Eleven scientists became multimillionaires this morning when they were named the first winners of the new Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences. Each researcher, whose specialties include genetics, stem cells, and cancer, will receive $3 million dollars, more than twice the maximum amount of a Nobel Prize. Funded by several Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, including Arthur Levinson of Apple, venture capitalist Yuri Milner, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, the Breakthrough Prize aims to “recogniz[e] excellence in research aimed at curing intractable diseases and extending human life,” according to the foundation’s Web site. The first group of winners includes Cornelia I. Bargmann of Rockefeller University in New York City; David Botstein of Princeton University; Lewis C. Cantley of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City; Hans Clevers of the Hubrecht Institute in the Netherlands; Napoleone Ferrara of the University of California, San Diego; Titia de Lange of Rockefeller University; Eric S. Lander of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge; Charles L. Sawyers of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City; Bert Vogelstein of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland; Robert A. Weinberg of MIT; and the 2012 Nobel laureate Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University and the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco. 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Ferrara, for his part, says, “I’m not going to Las Vegas, that’s for sure.” The Breakthrough Prize is an outgrowth of Milner’s Fundamental Physics Prize, which he inaugurated last summer by awarding nine theoretical physicists $3 million dollars each. He followed up a few months later with additional prizes for Stephen Hawking and the teams of experimental physicists behind the discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN. Like the physics prize, the new life sciences prize is already drawing criticism for focusing on already established researchers. “Breakthrough scientific research doesn’t come from just a handful of scientists who have already made a name for themselves, but from collaborations between many researchers,” Eva Amsen writes on the developmental biology blog The Node. “Preserving a broad network of researchers may in the long run be more rewarding than only awarding the top talent.” That concern may be addressed in the coming years, when recipients will be selected by previous winners. Ferrara, for one, says he will be looking particularly at “rising stars” when selecting future winners, whereas Bargmann says she’s hoping to recognize “exciting advances that make a difference.” Ultimately, the foundation plans to award five Breakthrough Prizes per year.
St. Louis, Mo… As the governments of the United States and the European Union (EU) explore ways to enhance trade between our countries, including through a potential free trade agreement (FTA), the American Soybean Association (ASA) has provided its views to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). As soybeans represent the nation’s largest agricultural export, valued at more than $26 billion last year, soybean farmers have a vested interest in seeing barriers to transatlantic trade reduced. Such barriers, like the EU’s discriminatory biotech labeling requirements and renewable energy standards, have had a significantly negative impact on soybean exports to the EU in recent years, with a 44 percent decline in the value of EU-bound exports between 1998 and 2011, and a 70 percent drop in export volume during the same period.”Central to our concerns with EU biotech labeling and renewable energy regulations is the fact that they represent discriminatory non-tariff barriers to U.S. access to EU markets for soybeans and soybean products, and have no basis in scientific fact,” wrote ASA President Steve Wellman in ASA’s comments. “Instead, the EU has invoked the so-called Precautionary Principle, under which unsubstantiated concerns about the safety of biotech products to health and the environment are deemed sufficient to require labeling them.””Similarly, the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED) establishes arbitrary criteria for the production of soybeans and other commodities in order to meet sustainability requirements and be eligible as feedstocks for biofuels used in EU Member States,” added Wellman. “In combination with the EU’s biotech labeling regulations, the RED will effectively eliminate imports of U.S. soybeans, since soybean oil will not be used either as an ingredient in food products or as a feedstock for biodiesel production.”Discussing a potential free trade agreement between the U.S. and the EU, and suggestions by some that agricultural interests may be excluded from any such FTA, Wellman maintained the importance of agriculture to trade issues, saying, “Agriculture is too important as an export industry for the U.S. to not address it in any new FTA negotiations. Moreover, as we have pointed out, U.S. soybean exports to the EU have been severely impacted by its biotech labeling and RED regulations during the last 13 years, and these issues must be addressed in any FTA negotiations.”Wellman then looked to the regulations’ potential larger impact, saying, “To allow the EU to establish unsubstantiated process-based labeling requirements or to impose arbitrary environmental criteria on imports and on producers in countries from which they are imported will only invite additional EU regulatory initiatives in other sectors that could offset any positive benefits which an FTA might achieve in reducing domestic or export subsidies or tariffs.”For a full transcript of ASA’s comments, please click here.ASA represents all U.S. soybean farmers on domestic and international issues of importance to the soybean industry. ASA’s advocacy efforts are made possible through the voluntary membership in ASA by more than 21,000 farmers in 31 states where soybeans are grown.###For more information contact:Steve Wellman, ASA President • 402-269-3464Patrick Delaney, ASA Communications Director • 202-969-7040