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Russian tycoon buys Nobel prize medal of DNA scientist James Watson, plans to return it

December 09, 2014, 17:24 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The medal was sold for $4.1 million at Christie’s auction

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MOSCOW, December 9. /TASS/. Russian businessman Alisher Usmanov has bought the Nobel prize medal of American biologist James Watson for $4.1 million at Christie’s auction, Usmanov’s press servicer reported on Tuesday. The Russian billionaire plans to return the medal to the scientist who was awarded the Nobel prize in 1962 for helping to discover the double-helix structure of DNA. Watson, 86, sold the medal to donate the funds from the sale for scientific research.

“In my opinion, a situation in which an outstanding scientist has to sell a medal recognising his achievements is unacceptable,” Usmanov said. “James Watson is one of the greatest biologists in the history of mankind and his award for the discovery of DNA structure must belong to him. “I wouldn’t like the medal of the distinguished scientist to be an object on sale,” Usmanov is quoted by his press service. “Dr. Watson’s work contributed to cancer research, the illness from which my father died. 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 December 4. The medal had been given a pre-auction estimate $2.5 million to $3.5 million, the auction house said. Watson plans to give the proceeds to Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory, the University of Chicago, and Clare College, Cambridge, Bloomberg reported.

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 ostracised by many in the scientific community since he made comments linking race and intelligence in a 2007 newspaper interview.

Usmanov, whose fortune is estimated at $14.4 billion by Bloomberg Billionaire Index, holds stakes in companies including Metalloinvest Holding Co, Russia’s largest iron ore producer, and mobile phone operator OAO MegaFon. (MFON)

He has also invested in technology companies, including Facebook Inc. (FB) and Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd.

In 2014, Alisher Usmanov rated second among the richest UK residents. The Sunday Times estimated his fortune at 10.65 billion pounds sterling ($17.9 billion).

The Russian billionaire is well-known patron of arts. One of his recent purchases at Sotheby’s is an art collection of renowned Russian musicians Mstislav Rostropovich and Galina Vishnevskaya. In 2007, he bought it for $111.5 million ahead of the auction bidding and gratuitously passed it to the Russian government. The unique collection is currently exhibited in the Konstantinov Palace in St. Petersburg. In 2013, Usmanov topped the Forbes’ rating of Russian art patrons.

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