BENGALURU: A 17-year-old Bengaluru girl, Sia Godika, has won the $400,000 Breakthrough Junior Challenge 2023 international science-video competition founded by Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, Russian Yuri Milner and his wife Julia, and US entrepreneur Anne Wojcicki.
Designed to inspire creative thinking and communication skills around fundamental concepts in the life sciences, physics and mathematics, the contest is an extension of Breakthrough Prize Foundation’s flagship $3 million Breakthrough Prize that is billed as the “Oscars of Science”.
Sia, a student of Class 12, won the junior challenge with a video titled “Yamanaka Factors”, in which she plays an elderly woman who regresses in age to become young again, demonstrating Nobel winner Shinya Yamanaka’s induced pluripotent stem cell technology that can purportedly “turn back time” on cells.

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“Sia will receive a $250,000 college scholarship for her winning video explaining the discoveries of Nobel laureate Shinya Yamanaka on cellular reprogramming,” Breakthrough Prize Foundation said in an exclusive statement shared with TOI. Sia’s science teacher, Arka Moulik, will receive a $50,000 share of the award, while her school, Neev Academy, will get a $100,000 lab designed by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. “This (the technology highlighted in the video) has huge implications for treating age-related and degenerative diseases,” reads the statement.
Sia was inspired by seeing her grandparents battle cancer and neurological issues. “Reversing cellular ageing can proactively prevent several debilitating diseases. I am determined to contribute to research that can make this future a reality,” she said. Sia will be given the prize alongside the 2024 Breakthrough Prize laureates at a ceremony in Los Angeles this spring. Her brother Samay Godika was a winner six years ago.
This year, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge attracted more than 2,400 applicants from 100-odd countries.

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