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Academy Gala Celebrates Launch of Nutrition Institute and Winning Young Scientists

The 2010 Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists and a Scientists Without Borders challenge in maternal nutrition were presented at the Academy's 7th Annual Gala.

Published November 16, 2010

During its Seventh Annual Science & the City Gala last night, the New York Academy of Sciences named the awardees of the 2010 Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists, announced the establishment of The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science, and unveiled a $10,000 Scientists Without Borders challenge to solve a critical maternal nutrition problem in the developing world.

In attendance were 400 global leaders from the fields of science, medicine, government, industry, and academia who gathered to celebrate the theme “Developing a Scientific Agenda for Nutrition.” The Academy raised $4 million through the Gala, the young scientists’ awards, initiatives supporting science teachers and underserved students in New York, and the launch of the Sackler Institute.

Aneesh Chopra, the first Federal Chief Technology Officer in the United States & Associate Director for Technology in the Obama Administration, gave a keynote address about the importance to the President’s administration of improving nutrition through science and spurring progress through technological innovation.

Gala co-chair Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor of the State University of New York and Academy Governor, announced the inaugural prize-based open-innovation challenge launched through Scientists Without Borders, a platform dedicated to surfacing and accelerating innovative science and technology-based solutions to global development challenges.

Academy President and CEO Ellis Rubinstein, who presided over the evening’s ceremonies, said, “Tonight marks a new era for the Academy. As we launch an unprecedented set of programs in the founding of the Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science, and celebrate the brilliant accomplishments of the finalists and winners of the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists, I feel confident in saying that New York’s scientific community is stronger than ever.”

Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists 2010
Since being established at the Academy by the Blavatnik Family Foundation in 2007, the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists have recognized 54 young scientists for highly innovative, impactful, and interdisciplinary accomplishments in science. This year, 12 researchers were recognized for their seminal achievements in areas ranging from earth science to engineering.

The faculty awardees of the 2010 Blavatnik Awards, who each received $25,000 in unrestricted funds, are Zoltan Haiman (Columbia University), Michal Lipson (Cornell University), Evgeny Nudler (New York University Medical Center), and Song-Hai Shi (Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center). Postdoctoral awardees, who each received an award of $15,000 in unrestricted funds are Yaron Lipman (Princeton University), Haitao Liu (Columbia University), and Daniela Schiller (New York University).

In addition, five finalists were named. Three faculty finalists receiving $10,000 in unrestricted funds are David Evans (Yale University), Elza Erkip (NYU Poly), and Neal Weiner (New York University). Two postdoctoral finalists receiving $5,000 in unrestricted funds are Nicolas Reyes (Weill Cornell Medical College) and Agnel Sfeir (The Rockefeller University).

Len Blavatnik of the Blavatnik Family Foundation, presented the awards. “Now in its fourth year, the ‘Young Scientists’ awards program was established to encourage scientific talent by supporting promising scientists early in their careers when they are most in need of funding and recognition,” he said. “The development and support for the next generation of leading scientists in the United States and their scientific research is an issue of great national importance and one about which I care deeply. The Blavatnik Family Foundation is proud to support and honor these wonderfully creative and intelligent finalists.”

The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science
The Gala also celebrated the establishment of The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science, made possible by a founding gift from The Mortimer D. Sackler Foundation, Inc., with the mission to develop a strategic nutrition science research agenda, to rally scientists around addressing the world’s most critical nutrition challenges, and to see that those scientific solutions are translated into practical applications in the field.

The largest gift in the Academy’s 193-year history establishes the Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science as a permanent institute within the Academy where it will be partnered with the World Health Organization to develop a prioritized agenda for nutrition science research. The Institute will also establish a public-private partnership of academic institutions, non-profit organizations, government bodies, and corporations that will work together to galvanize action on the nutrition science research agenda and implement outcomes in the field.

Additional leadership support for the public-private partnership within the Institute has been provided by the IDP Foundation, Inc. and the Mathile Institute for the Advancement of Human Nutrition, Abbott Nutrition, the Coca-Cola Company, DSM, Johnson & Johnson, Nestlé, PepsiCo, and Pfizer Inc, and the Government of Mexico City. A diverse range of other organizations – including The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and global NGOs and leading universities such as Cornell University, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and Wageningen University and Research Centre – have also pledged to work with the newly formed Institute in areas of application and research inquiry.

$10,000 Challenge to Nutrition Science Solvers
Also during the Gala, Scientists Without Borders, a public/private partnership led by the New York Academy of Sciences, unveiled an open innovation challenge to address the critical malnutrition problem of folic acid deficiency in women of child-bearing age in the developing world.

Scientists Without Borders announced that it will offer $10,000 in prizes for the most innovative ideas proposed within the next month that offer low-cost, easy-to-implement, scalable methods to combat the critical malnutrition consequence of folic acid deficiency, which contributes to high rates of infant mortality and birth defects.

To harness the insight and expertise of as many diverse and creative problem-solvers as possible, Scientists Without Borders is leveraging its unique, free, web-based platform and worldwide network to disseminate this challenge to a diverse pool of Solvers. It has partnered with InnoCentive, the leading company in open innovation, to administer the challenge and to access a pool of 200,000 expert Solvers. For sponsorship of the award, Scientists Without Borders has teamed up with PepsiCo.

“Scientists Without Borders’ partnerships with these world class organizations reflects our commitment to utilizing innovative approaches to identify solutions to vexing development challenges, and to leveraging multi-sector science and technology resources and expertise in order to drive those solutions to impact and scale,” said Shaifali Puri, Executive Director of Scientists Without Borders.

• For more information about the Blavatnik Awards, please see
• For more about Scientists Without Borders Challenge, see
• For more information about the Academy’s new New York-focused science & math education efforts for teachers and underserved students, see
• For more information about The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science, please contact Adrienne Burke, Director of Public Outreach, The New York Academy of Sciences, or (212) 298-8655.

About The Blavatnik Family Foundation
The Blavatnik Family Foundation is an active supporter of educational, scientific, cultural, and charitable institutions in the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel and throughout the world. Recipients of Foundation support include Oxford University, Harvard University, Tel Aviv University, The Royal Opera House, The Hermitage, The National Portrait Gallery, The British Museum, The National Gallery of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The New York Academy of Sciences, The White Nights Foundation, The Center for Jewish History and other Jewish causes as well as many other philanthropic institutions. The Foundation is headed by Len Blavatnik, an American industrialist. Mr. Blavatnik is the founder and Chairman of Access Industries, a privately-held U.S. industrial group with global interests in natural resources and chemicals, media and telecommunications, and real estate.

About The New York Academy of Sciences
The New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organization committed to advancing science, technology, and society worldwide since 1817. With 25,000 members in 140 countries, the Academy is creating a global community of science for the benefit of humanity. The Academy’s core mission is to advance scientific knowledge, positively impact the major global challenges of society with science-based solutions, and increase the number of scientifically informed individuals in society at large. Please visit us online at