Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists to Launch in UK

US awards program commits to multi-year investment in UK science, in excess of £10million

NEW YORK, April 7, 2017 — The Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists, a U.S.-based awards program established by the Blavatnik Family Foundation in 2007, is expanding to the United Kingdom, a move that will bring over £10 million of inward investment to the UK scientific community.

The awards, administered by the New York Academy of Sciences, recognize outstanding young scientists and engineers in three subject categories: Life Sciences, Physical Sciences & Engineering, and Chemistry. They provide support to scientists and engineers early in their careers, when additional funding and recognition have the greatest impact on a young scientist’s work. Over the past decade, over $4 million has been awarded to 125 scientists in the U.S.

The UK awards will be separate from the U.S. competition and recognize faculty-rank scientists from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England under the age of 42. Three winners (one in each subject category) will each receive $100,000 in unrestricted funds; two finalists in each category will both receive $30,000. The awards represent one of the largest unrestricted cash prizes available to young UK scientists.

Award candidates will be nominated by their university or research institution, or through the UK Scientific Advisory Council, which consists of eminent scientists and engineers including Nobel Laureate John O’Keefe, and Jackie Hunter, former CEO of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. The finalists and winners will be chosen by a jury comprising some of the world’s most distinguished scientists and engineers.

“The UK is home to some of the world's best scientists and this is why we made science and research a central part of our Industrial Strategy— strengthening links between research and industry, ensuring more home-grown innovation creates economic growth across the country,” says the UK’s Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson. “The Blavatnik Awards are an excellent example of the importance of investing in our young scientists and their pioneering work that will benefit millions around the world.”

Len Blavatnik, head of the Blavatnik Family Foundation, says, “The UK consistently produces some of the best scientific research in the world, building upon its remarkable history of scientific discovery and innovation. The Blavatnik Family Foundation looks forward to honoring and supporting those scientists providing solutions to society's biggest problems.”

Past Blavatnik Award winners represent some of America’s most successful young scientists. Over 90 percent of previous winners are now tenured at some of the world’s top research institutions, and 79 percent of postdoctoral winners are now tenure-track faculty (i.e. holding the rank of assistant professor, associate professor or professor).

Professor John O'Keefe of Sainsbury Wellcome Centre at UCL, winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Medicine, who is joining the Blavatnik Awards’ UK Scientific Advisory Council, says, “Scientists around the world deserve recognition for their important work, and this is particularly the case for early career scientists who are often trailblazing new problems and new areas of research. The UK has a long history in supporting and fostering the independence of young scientists. It is great news that the highly prestigious Blavatnik Awards will now be available to early stage UK researchers. I’m looking forward to working with the Foundation in this important new endeavor.”

“The Blavatnik Awards are very special because they are given at a stage of a scientific career when recognition is most meaningful and has a long-lasting impact,” says Ruslan Medzhitov, a Yale University professor and one of the earliest winners of the Blavatnik Awards in the United States in 2007. “This was certainly the case for me. The award not only recognizes past accomplishments, but also future promise. This provides a powerful motivation to deliver on that promise.”

Indeed, Medzhitov has made many seminal discoveries about the human immune system, dramatically expanding our understanding of infection control, chronic inflammation and even tumor growth.

“The United States and United Kingdom have a long history of collaboration in science,” says Ellis Rubinstein, president and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences, which administers the Blavatnik program. “Expanding the Blavatnik Awards to the United Kingdom, with its vast pool of rising scientific talent, is the next logical step for the next decade of the program, and I personally cannot wait to participate in the annual scientific symposium that brings many Blavatnik Awardees together. The sparks always fly and new collaborations will be born that can transform the world.”

Nominations for the UK Blavatnik Awards open May 3, 2017. The finalists and winners will be announced at a formal awards ceremony in March 2018. Universities and research institutions can nominate candidates via www.blavatnikawards.org/awards/uk.