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North Texas Geneticist Wins Big Award At Glitzy Science Ceremony

Steve Jennings
Getty Images for Breakthrough Prize
Professor Helen Hobbs speaks onstage during the 2016 Breakthrough Prize Ceremony on Sunday in Mountain View, California.

Over the weekend, a UT Southwestern geneticist won one of science’s biggest awards.

Dr. Helen Hobbs was named a winner of the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for her work on cholesterol research. She co-launched something called the Dallas Heart Study.

The Breakthrough Prize is a glitzy, glamorous ceremony -- it's kind of like the Oscars for scientists. 

Along with a $3 million prize – yes, a $3 million prize -- Hobbs was honored for her work in identifying the genes behind lipid metabolism and fatty liver disease.

Hobbs’ work has led to the development of drugs to lower LDL cholesterol. The U.S. Food and Drug administration has already approved some of the drugs, UT Southwestern says.

Here’s how Hobbs described her efforts in a video for the Breakthrough Prize.

About the Breakthrough Prize

The Breakthrough Prize recognizes scientists for their work in groundbreaking discoveries in the fields of math, physics and life sciences.

The prize was created in 2012 by some of the top internet entrepreneurs, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Alibaba’s Jack Ma.

“By challenging conventional thinking and expanding knowledge over the long term, scientists can solve the biggest problems of our time,” Zuckerberg said. “The Breakthrough Prize honors achievements in science and math so we can encourage more pioneering research and celebrate scientists as the heroes they truly are.”

Nearly $22 million was awarded Sunday in a ceremony that aired on the National Geographic Channel.

Celebrities helped present the awards. They included Hilary Swank, Russell Crowe and Kumail Nanjiani.

‘Selected by your peers’

Hobbs said the selection process is what makes the prize special.

“One of the great things about this prize is that you’re selected by your peers,” Hobbs told a Breakthrough Prize camera crew. “And not just any old peers, [because] you’re selected by people who have won the prize before you.”

Read Hobbs' UT-Southwestern bio.

Video: Watch ceremony highlights