Yuri began his career as a theoretical physicist, and science remains his great passion.
He and his wife Julia, together with Sergey Brin, Ma Huateng, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, and Anne Wojcicki, are sponsors of the Breakthrough Prizes – the world’s largest scientific awards, honoring important, primarily recent, achievements in Fundamental Physics, Life Sciences and Mathematics. Each year six $3m prizes are given to scientists and mathematicians in these fields, at a live, internationally televised gala award ceremony in Silicon Valley. They also support the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, a global science video competition for high school students.
In July 2015, together with Stephen Hawking, Yuri launched the $100 million Breakthrough Listen initiative to reinvigorate the search for extraterrestrial intelligence in the Universe, and in April 2016 they and Mark Zuckerberg launched Breakthrough Starshot – a $100 million research and engineering program seeking to develop a technology for interstellar travel. These are part of the Breakthrough Initiatives, a series of major space science programs focused on the big questions of life in the Universe.