Breakthrough Prize Foundation Partners With U.S. National Academy Of Sciences To Support Scientists Forced To Flee Ukraine

Foundation Dedicates $1 Million from a $3 Million Fund Pledged for Impacted Scientists to NAS Initiative to Help Displaced Ukrainian Researchers Relocate and Continue Their Work.

SAN FRANCISCO – March 29, 2022 – The Breakthrough Prize Foundation today announced a new partnership with the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to support humanitarian relief efforts for scientists forced to flee from Ukraine by the Russian invasion. Part of a $3 million fund pledged for humanitarian relief, the Foundation will dedicate $1 million to the NAS’s Scientists and Engineers in Exile and Displaced (SEED) initiative, which helps scientists and engineers maintain their livelihoods and dignity during the current upheaval, remaining employed and connected to the global scientific community.

The $1 million donation is part of a $3 million pledge from the Foundation announced on March 14 to support scientists who have been forced to flee from Ukraine. The full $1 million donation will go toward aid for affected researchers.

Under an agreement with the Ukrainian and Polish academies of sciences, the U.S. NAS support for scientists and their families will include providing the displaced researchers with grants and placements in appropriate research institutions for up to six months.

Impact of the war on Ukrainian science

Ukraine has been modernizing its scientific infrastructure in the last decade, but the war is likely to set that process back considerably. Among other impacts, on March 6 one of the country’s premier research centers, the Kharkiv Physics and Technology Institute, was damaged. And the conflict has already taken a tragic toll on the lives of scientists.

The Breakthrough Prize Foundation and the NAS hope that by protecting the wellbeing and livelihoods of scientists and their families, Ukrainian science will be in a better position to rebuild after the conflict ends, and in the meantime the world will continue to benefit from the ideas and discoveries of some of the country’s finest minds. The initiative encourages “brain circulation” rather than brain drain, with the intention that most scientists be in a position to return to their country eventually.

This humanitarian effort will play a part in keeping these researchers connected to their training, their research and their professional networks around the world. With many male family members still inside Ukraine, it is expected that the program will initially support primarily female scientists, but this may be revised as the complex situation on the ground evolves.

“Ukraine needs its scientists, and the world needs Ukraine’s contribution to science,” said Dr. Pete Worden, Executive Chairman of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation. “We are honored to collaborate with the NAS to help keep these talented and dedicated people well and working in this crisis.”

“The time will come when Ukraine will very much need the skills, experience, and creativity of these displaced researchers and scholars to help rebuild their nation,” said National Academy of Sciences President Marcia McNutt. “We are grateful that the Breakthrough Prize Foundation is joining us in this important effort to help our Ukrainian colleagues safely relocate, remain productive, and stay connected to and engaged with the international community.”

The SEED initiative

Recognizing that years of specialized training could be at risk for refugees and displaced people, the NAS established the SEED program in 2021 to provide bridge opportunities that enable scientists and engineers to remain connected to the global scientific enterprise. The program initially focused on helping Afghan scholars fleeing the Taliban, successfully placing them in academic appointments at the University of Rwanda.

Today, the enormous movement of people resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine includes professionals from all walks of life, including a sizable number of scientists, engineers and other scholars who are leaving behind laboratories, classrooms and students as well as their professional networks.

Recognizing the potential impact of the conflict on Ukraine’s brightest minds and their ability to work, on March 1 the Polish Academy of Sciences entered into an agreement with the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences to support Ukrainian researchers, initially focused on those who have left the country. This agreement allows researchers to be placed in an institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences and provided with grants for up to six months of assistance. The NAS has stepped in to support that effort. Working with the Polish and Ukrainian Academies, NAS will leverage the Breakthrough Prize donation to find short-term placements for the scores of Ukrainian researchers temporarily residing in Poland and neighboring countries. Beyond addressing urgent needs, these funds will also help develop a longer-term approach for rebuilding the scientific infrastructure of Ukraine.

The Breakthrough Prize Foundation donation brings the total so far raised by the SEED initiative for Ukraine to $1.8 million, alongside $300,000 raised for Afghanistan.

About The Breakthrough Prize Foundation

The Breakthrough Prize Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to recognizing the world’s great scientists, advancing cutting-edge scientific research, and helping to create a knowledge culture in which everybody, especially the next generation, can be inspired by the big questions of science.

The Breakthrough Prize, renowned as the “Oscars of Science,” recognizes the world’s top scientists in the fields of Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics and Mathematics. Each prize is $3 million. The Breakthrough Junior Challenge is an annual global video competition for students to inspire creative thinking about science.

More information can be found at:

About The National Academy of Sciences

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, non-profit institution that was established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science by election to membership, and – with the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine – provides science, technology, and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations.


For media inquiries about the Breakthrough Prize:


Rubenstein Communications, Inc.
New York, New York

Janet Wootten / +1-212-843-8024

Kristen Bothwell / +1-212-843-9227

For media inquiries about the NAS:

Molly Galvin / +1-202-334-2138