FALLING WALLS FOUNDATION | ANJA KARLICZEK, HELGE BRAUN, EMMANUELLE CHARPENTIER, HELGA NOWOTNY, JÜRGEN MLYNEK, SEBASTIAN TURNER, ASTRID FROHLOFF, ADAM LEVY, HERMANN HAUSER, LAURA HELMUTH, MARJA MAKAROW, SHALINI RANDERIA, DANIEL ZAJFMAN, HORST BREDEKAMP, JOËL MESOT, DEBORAH QUAZZO, MELANIE SMALLMAN, STEFAN VON HOLTZBRINCK, KUMSAL BAYAZIT, CLAUDIE HAIGNERÉ
Over 900 nominees from 111 countries competed to become the Science Breakthroughs of the Year. On 9 November 2020, the anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, we celebrated the Top Science Breakthroughs of the Year in the following categories: Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering and Technology, Social Sciences and Humanities, Science in the Arts, Digital Education, Science and Innovation Management, Emerging Talents, Science Start-Ups, and Science Engagement.
These breakthroughs mark significant progress in a wide range of fields. For human health, the use of modified proteins as Trojan horses to treat cancer and viral infections, and microrobots that move like jellyfish in the human body replacing risky surgery were awarded. Other winning projects train refugees for leadership positions or involve hundreds of thousands of volunteers to solve complex innovation challenges. One breakthrough achieves superconductivity at close-to room temperatures. Another set of breakthroughs address global challenges such as our perception of nature or the human capacity to act in solidarity on a global scale.
We are delighted to announce the 10 Science Breakthroughs of the Year:
MIKHAIL EREMETS – MAX-PLANCK-INSTITUTE FOR CHEMISTRY, MAINZ
Breaking the Wall to Room-Temperature Superconductivity
Mikhail Eremets, the Belarusian-born physicist, has pioneered experiments that allow superconductivity at temperatures of a common household freezer by using unusual materials such as metallic hydrogen.
Science in the Arts:
ALEXANDRA DAISY GINSBERG – STUDIO ALEXANDRA DAISY GINSBERG, LONDON
Breaking the Wall to Machine Auguries
The London-based artist Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg created new bird voices to help us understand our negative impact on nature. In dialogue with scientists and experts, she uses emerging technologies such as Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) to create deep fakes that challenge our perception of nature.
CHRISTIAN HACKENBERGER – LEIBNIZ-FORSCHUNGSINSTITUT FÜR MOLEKULARE PHARMAKOLOGIE, BERLIN
Breaking the Wall to Next Generation Biopharmaceuticals
Christian Hackenberger has pioneered the development of protein-based therapeutics, based on the modification and cellular delivery of antibodies to target cancer and viral infections. This includes the engineering of an inhibitor against human and avian influenza and safer next-gen antibody-drug conjugates. These efforts led to the foundation of the highly successful start-up Tubulis.
Social Sciences and Humanities:
MARGARET LEVI – CENTRE FOR ADVANCED STUDY IN THE BEHAVIOURAL SCIENCES, STANFORD UNIVERSITY
Breaking the Wall to an Expanded Community of Fate
The work of Margaret Levi explores how the concept “community of fate”, that is common to small groups like families, can be implemented on a global scale to address global challenges. By studying the culture of unions and our collective behaviour during the Covid-19 pandemic, she proposes tangible approaches towards a global community of fate.
CHRYSTINA RUSSEL – SOUTHERN NEW HAMPSHIRE UNIVERSITY
Breaking the Wall of Refugee Education
The Global Education Movement directed by Chrystina Russell created outstanding results in providing degree-level education to refugees. 95 percent of her students graduate and close to 90 percent are employed within six months after graduation. The Global Education Movement unlocks the potential of a new generation of leaders that can take on intractable problems – from poverty and famine to conflict and disease – that once were significant barriers to their success.
Science and Innovation Management:
JACOB FRIIS SHERSON – AARHUS UNIVERSITY
Breaking the Wall of Hybrid Intelligence
The approach by Jacob Sherson to involve hundreds of thousands of people to collaborate with him in addressing complex research challenges marks a breakthrough in Science and Innovation Management. His big idea is to turn a quantum computing issue into a popular video game that – in conjunction with AI – provides insights to researchers from natural, social and cognitive sciences.
Engineering and Technology:
METIN SITTI – MAX PLANCK INSTITUTE FOR INTELLIGENT SYSTEMS
Breaking the Wall to Wireless Medical Robots Inside Our Body
Conventional surgeries are associated with risks. The observations Metin Sitti made in nature, studying worms and jellyfish, inspired a range of versatile microrobots that can navigate and function safely inside the human body. This breakthrough revolutionizes the way we can deliver drugs, pump fluids, perform biopsies or clear clogged vessels.
SHAWANA TABASSUM – UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT TYLER
Breaking the Wall of Neonatal Health Disparity
Shawana Tabassum has pioneered a device that allows for the measurement of biomarker levels within just 10 minutes, and at a significantly lower cost than conventional testing. This provides the opportunity for much earlier diagnosis and treatment. The device is easy to use, requires only one drop of blood from the newborn, and is portable. As a result, Shawana Tabassum’s innovation expands the reach of these diagnostic tests and brings help to where it is needed most.
Science Engagement Initiatives:
NICOLAS BONNE – INSTITUTE OF COSMOLOGY AND GRAVITATION, UNIVERSITY OF PORTSMOUTH
Breaking the Wall to Astronomy for the Vision-Impaired
Where most science engagement projects focus only on people without disabilities, this outreach project involves blind people in a novel and engaging way. Its unique quality is shaped by the fact that its founder, Nicolas Bonne, is a blind astrophysicist himself. Galaxies are printed as 3D-models fitting the size of a human hand. Combined with innovative teaching resources and workshops they allow blind people to experience and understand astrophysics.
MADE OF AIR GMBH / PRESENTED BY ALLISON DRING – RESPOND ACCELERATOR, MUNICH
Breaking the Wall to Carbon Negative Material
Up to this day, construction and production has a massive carbon footprint. The breakthrough achieved by Made of Air is to reverse this phenomenon. The science-based start-up combats climate change by bringing carbon-negative materials into the market at scale. It uses low-value biomass waste to produce high value, carbon-negative thermoplastics. Their products pave the way to pollution-eating facades tackling city smog.