Date
23 September 2017
Alisher Usmanov says his father died from the same disease Dr. James Watson has spent a lifetime fighting with his DNA research. Photo: Bloomberg
Alisher Usmanov says his father died from the same disease Dr. James Watson has spent a lifetime fighting with his DNA research. Photo: Bloomberg

Russian tycoon to return Nobel medal to DNA laureate

Russia’s richest man will return a Nobel Prize medal to its owner after buying it for US$4.1 million at a charity auction.

Alisher Usmanov, who is worth US$14.4 billion by Bloomberg estimates, said he plans to return the medal to Dr. James Watson, whose research into DNA led to the growth of genomics.

The American biologist won the 1962 Nobel Prize for his work.

“In my opinion, a situation in which an outstanding scientist sells a medal recognizing his achievements is unacceptable,” Bloomberg reported Wednesday citing Usmanov in a statement released by his USM group.

“Dr. Watson’s work contributed to cancer research, the illness from which my father died,” he said.

“It is important for me that the money that I spent on this medal will go to supporting scientific research, and the medal will stay with the person who deserved it.”

The auction was held at Christie’s in New York on Dec. 4. The medal had been given a pre-auction estimate US$2.5 million to US$3.5 million, the auction house said.

Watson, 86, plans to give the proceeds to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the University of Chicago, and Clare College, Cambridge.

The gifts mean “I can continue to do my part in keeping the academic world an environment where great ideas and decency prevail”, Watson said in a statement last week.

“I also intend to direct funds to the Long Island Land Trust and other local charities I have long supported.”

Watson, who was awarded the prize together with Francis Crick, has been ostracized by many in the scientific community since he made comments linking race and intelligence in a 2007 newspaper interview.

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