Cambridge chemists are awarded the biggest prize in science

Sir David Klenerman (left) and Sir Shankar Balasubramanian, who have been awarded the 2020 Millennium Technology Prize

Two Cambridge researchers have been awarded the biggest prize in science.

Cambridge University chemists Sir Shankar Balasubramanian and Sir David Klenerman were awarded the 2022 Breakthrough prize for their work on DNA Sequencing. The prize worth more than 2 million pounds helps study and identify viruses and could help prevent future pandemics.

The prize was announced in San Francisco by the Breakthrough Foundation - which was set up by technology billionaires Sergey Brin, who co-founded Google, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg the cofounders of Facebook, Russian investors, Yuri and Julia Milner, and Anne Wojcicki of 23andMe.

As a result of the pandemic the awards will actually be presented next year.

The pair formed the company Solexa to make their discovery more broadly available Credit: University of Cambridge

The pair, who last year were awarded the Technology Prize, for their work on DNA sequencing. They share the award with Pascal Mayer, from the French company Alphanosos.

The work was used to help identify mutations of Covid-19. In making the announcement, the foundation said:

"...the almost immediate identification and characterisation of the virus, rapid development of vaccines, and real-time monitoring of new genetic variants would have been impossible without the next generation sequencing technologies invented by Shankar Balasubramanian, David Klenerman and Pascal Mayer.

Professor Suchitra Sebastian and Professor Jack Thorne Credit: University of Cambridge

In addition to the Breakthrough Prize two other Cambridge academics received awards. Professor Suchitra Sebastian, from the Cavendish Laboratory, and Professor Jack Thorne, from the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics, have been recognised with the New Horizons Prize, awarded to outstanding early-career researchers.

Professor Sebastian has been awarded the 2022 New Horizons in Physics Prize for high precision electronic and magnetic measurements .

Professor Thorne has been awarded the 2022 New Horizons in Mathematics Prize, for transformative contributions to diverse areas of algebraic number theory.