Earlier this week, two Chinese scientists became the very first to win what China is calling their own home-grown version of the Nobel Prize.
It’s called the Future Science Prize and it’s China’s first non-governmental science award.
The first of two winners is Dennis Lo Yuk-ming, 52, a chemical pathology professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, according to SCMP.
He was awarded with the Life Science Award for developing a non-invasive test for detecting Down’s syndrome in a fetus during the prenatal period. His test is now being used in over 90 countries.
The second winner was Xue Qikun, 53, a physicist at Tsinghua University in Beijing, according to China Daily.
Xue was awarded the Material Science Award for laying the groundwork in the quantum anomalous Hall (QAH) effect.
In January, both men will be given a $1 million prize at an awards ceremony.
The Future Science Prize was created in January 2016 by a group of Chinese scientists and entrepreneurs who wish to reignite China’s domestic interest in science and innovation, among which is Baidu co-founder Robin Li. The Chinese billionaire committed to financing the organization’s prize money for the next decade.
Candidates for the Future Science Prize must have done all their work in China. They are then nominated, their work is reviewed by field experts from around the world, then a secret group of judges determines who the winners are.
The initial reason behind creating the Future Science Prize may be the very few number of Chinese citizens who do win the Nobel Prize.
Last year, Chinese scientist Tu Youyou won part or the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her work in creating an herbal therapy to fight malaria based on work first started in ancient China and further developed under Chairman Mao Zedong’s regime during the Cultural Revolution.
Before her, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, however, Liu was unable to travel to Sweden to accept the award because he was imprisoned in 2009.