Recipients of the 2024 Hill Prizes Announced
TAMEST and Lyda Hill Philanthropies have announced the recipients of the 2024 Hill Prizes. The prizes, funded by Lyda Hill Philanthropies, accelerate high-risk, high-reward research ideas with significant potential for real-world impact.
The prizes are given in five categories: Medicine, Engineering, Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences and Technology. They recognize exceptional innovators by providing seed funding to advance groundbreaking science and highlight Texas as a premier destination for world-class research.
The prizes aim to bridge the path from research to business development and further innovations that need additional funding for greater impact. A committee of TAMEST members (Texas-based members of the National Academies) selected the recipients, and finalists were endorsed by a committee of Texas Nobel and Breakthrough Prize Laureates and approved by the TAMEST Board of Directors.
Principal Investigators of the winning proposals were recognized the evening of February 5, 2024, at the opening reception of the TAMEST 2024 Annual Conference in Austin, Texas. Each of the five winning proposals will receive $500,000 in funding from Lyda Hill Philanthropies to accelerate their work.
The Principal Investigators of the winning proposals are:
- Medicine: Martin M. Matzuk, M.D., Ph.D. (NAS), Director of the Center for Drug Discovery and Chair, Stuart A. Wallace Chair, Robert L. Moody, Sr. Chair, and Professor in the Department of Pathology & Immunology at Baylor College of Medicine. His team’s proposal was chosen for the 2024 Hill Prize in Medicine for creating a novel approach to treat endometriosis. The debilitating chronic disease, which afflicts 190 million women globally and has no effective treatment currently, occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus and causes severe pain and inflammation in the pelvis. Endometriosis makes it more difficult to get pregnant and has challenging side effects. Dr. Matzuk’s team has identified a new therapeutic approach to relieve the pain and cause the endometriotic tissue to shrink as well. His team has used this research to find several potential drug candidates and will use the prize funding to perform preclinical development studies to create first-in-class non-steroidal drugs to treat endometriosis.
- Engineering: Maria A. Croyle, Ph.D., Professor of Pharmaceutics at The University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy. Her team’s proposal was chosen for the 2024 Hill Prize in Engineering for demonstrating innovative techniques that will allow vaccines and biological drugs to be transported without the need for temperature control, which could lead to the rapid global distribution of life-saving medicines. Using methods from virology, immunology and drug delivery, Dr. Croyle’s team developed a simple, resource-sparing system to preserve vaccines so they can be shipped worldwide without the need for ice or to be kept at a specific temperature. Her team’s work has advanced to the point that a company has been created to bring the technology to the marketplace. Dr. Croyle’s team will use prize funding to advance the product to full scale production, allowing for the innovation to move from the lab to the clinic and have a profound impact in the developing world.
- Biological Sciences: Russell A. DeBose-Boyd, Ph.D. (NAS), Beatrice and Miguel Elias Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Science and a Professor of Molecular Genetics at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Dr. DeBose-Boyd was chosen for the 2024 Hill Prize in Biological Sciences for his work’s potential to make statins more effective and provide insight into their side effects. Heart disease cases cause more than 600,000 deaths per year and more than 20 million Americans take statins daily. Dr. DeBose-Boyd’s research deploys an array of impressive tools including mouse genetics, biochemistry, screening and structural biology with the potential to develop a new class of statin enhancer drugs and improve our understanding of statins’ side effects. He will use the prize funding to advance his studies and provide for genetically-modified mice studies.
- Physical Sciences: Allan H. MacDonald, Ph.D. (NAS), Professor and Director of the Center for Complex Quantum Systems in the Department of Physics at The University of Texas at Austin. His team’s proposal was chosen for the 2024 Hill Prize in Physical Sciences for its potential to create a new energy storage device, the quantum supercapacitor, a new, low-carbon way to store energy. If successful, this work would create a new energy storage technology with longer lifetime and faster charging speeds. MacDonald and his team will utilize prize funding to advance their ongoing research and probe the performance limits of quantum supercapacitors.
- Technology: Hermann Lebit, Ph.D., Founder and Principal of Alma Energy. His team’s proposal was chosen for the 2024 Hill Prize in Technology for developing clean, emission-free direct lithium extraction using geothermal energy. His team partners with researchers at The University of Texas at El Paso to use resources within Texas to extract lithium (used for car batteries), hydrogen (used in the petrochemical industry) and fresh water, while sequestering the carbon during the process. His team will utilize prize funding to advance the technology to field testing, secure pilot project sites and complete water sampling procedures.
“Our organization is committed to funding game-changing advances in science and nature and that is exactly what the Hill Prizes’ mission is,” said Lyda Hill, Entrepreneur and Founder of Lyda Hill Philanthropies. “We hope that the funding awarded to these Texas scientists will help enable them to launch their pivotal research into development and continue to make advancements in scientific innovation.”
“We are thrilled to announce this year’s recipients of our Hill Prizes and to support these top researchers in our state as we watch them change the world,” said TAMEST President Brendan Lee, M.D., Ph.D. (NAM), Baylor College of Medicine. “These prizes will accelerate their groundbreaking contributions and put them in a stronger position to receive more research funding in large-scale grants and collaborations. We are proud to advance these exceptional innovators and ideas and highlight the most exciting research in the state thanks to the vision and support of Lyda Hill.”
“We had an astonishing amount of interest for our inaugural year of the Hill Prizes, which truly showcases not only the groundbreaking research happening in our state but the vital need to support and fund high-impact research in Texas,” said 2024 Hill Prizes Committee Chair David E. Daniel, Ph.D. (NAE), The University of Texas at Dallas. “The real work came from our volunteer subcommittees, who reviewed more than 160 applications and had the difficult task of selecting five proposals for funding. Their hard work paid off, and we are proud to put forward these five diverse and truly innovative research proposals to advance with the support of Lyda Hill Philanthropies. We can’t wait to see the results of this commitment in the years to come.”
Each recipient will submit an annual impact report to TAMEST and Lyda Hill Philanthropies to showcase their progress and highlight how the prize has accelerated their research.
After an incredibly successful first year of the prizes, Lyda Hill Philanthropies has committed over $10 million in funding to continue the prize program for the next three years. The $10 million will include the addition of a new prize in the category of Public Health, resulting in six prizes per year of $500,000 each. In addition, at least $1 million in discretionary research funding will be allocated by Lyda Hill Philanthropies on an ad hoc basis to highly ranked applicants and finalists not selected as recipients.
Applications for the 2025 Hill Prizes will open May 1 and close May 31, 2024.
Visit www.tamest.org/hill-prizes for more information on the prizes, application and selection process. TAMEST thanks the Hill Prizes Committee for their work selecting the 2024 recipients. Learn more about the committee members here.
Lyda Hill Philanthropies encompasses the charitable giving for founder Lyda Hill and includes her foundation and personal philanthropy. Her organization is committed to funding transformational advances in science and nature, empowering nonprofit organizations and improving the Texas and Colorado communities. Because Miss Hill has a fervent belief that “science is the answer” to many of life’s most challenging issues, she has chosen to donate the entirety of her estate to philanthropy and scientific research.