And the secret is out. After teasing us about an upcoming project the Chan-Zuckerberg initiative has been working on since the past couple of years, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg finally announced it very recently. The program is huge as well as noble as the Chan-Zuckerberg initiative puts out $3 billion over the next decade to help cure, prevent, or manage all diseases, within our children’s lifetimes.
Part of the newly formed Chan Zuckerberg Science, the initiative was announced through a livefeed on Facebook. The program aims to cure, prevent or manage all diseases within our children’s lifetimes and is one of a few corporate driven programs of this magnitude, working in this particular direction.
The announcement took place in San Francisco. Explaining their collective vision of riding the planet of diseases — or at least making them significantly more manageable, Priscilla Chan said,
Mark and I believe that this is possible within our children’s lifetime. We are partnering with scientists, doctors, and engineers to help us achieve this goal … We’ll be investing more than $3 billion to achieve our collective vision.
A significant portion of the $3 Billion amount will go towards investments in Biohub, which will be working to unite researchers from Stanford, Berkeley, and UCSF with engineers to find new ways to treat disease. The basic aim here is to get the best minds in the world to sit down together to work upon some of the more pressing of humanity’s concerns.
Meanwhile, Biohub will be led by Joe Derisi and Stephen Quake, both of whom are quite well known in medical and research circles for their expertise in biophysics and bioengineering.
Undoubtedly, diseases are one of the most pressing issues before us today. Despite all the progress made by us, there is still little left to do for a loved one who is suffering from, say advanced stage cancer or one of the hundreds of other fatal devices. What is even worse, is the fact that while those in a better financial position have their choice of treatments, in many situations, those who don’t have the luxury of sound economic affairs, can do nothing but wait for demise.
Both Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan, have always been passionate about the subject of curing diseases. While Chan is a doctor and as such, can be expected to take a professional interest in the matter, Zuckerberg has also been an equally emphatic supporter. In fact, in their letter to their newborn daughter Max, almost a year ago, the couple stressed about the importance of research in curing diseases,
Consider disease. Today we spend about 50 times more as a society treating people who are sick than we invest in research so you won’t get sick in the first place.
Zuckerberg stressed the exact same words today, reiterating the importance of research in getting rid of diseases and laying out a sustainable roadmap for the program, which includes three parts:
- Bring scientists and engineers together
- Build tools and technology
- Grow the movement to fund science
The Facebook founder also explained that the initiative was aimed towards a very common issue faced by researches in this direction — that is, an acute shortage of funds. He said that a shift towards long-term thinking for research was needed. However, the shift can not come backed merely by your typical academic grants.
Which is why Zuckerberg and Chan will be using their personal fortune to work upon something both of them are extremely passionate about. The couple pledged to donate about 99 percent of their total wealth within their lifetimes, which taking the value of the Facebook shares owned by Mark into account, is somewhere in the north of $45 Billion.
Zuckerberg also stressed that this is a long term effort. And that it will be years or even decades before the impact of this initiative can really be felt around us. However, as he stressed time and again, it is all about leaving the planet a better place for the next generation.
The science initiative is a long term effort. We plan to invest billions of dollars over decades. But it will take years for these tools to be developed and longer to put them into full use. This is hard and we need to be patient, but it’s important.
Meanwhile, all the research and output from the CZS, will be openly available to all doctors and researchers everywhere. Cori Bragmann, head of Chan Zuckerberg Science, stressed that the organization will focus upon building “transformational technologies”.
He also gave an example of a cell atlas — that could potentially help researchers know more about every cell in the body — which left the audience fascinated. Understanding and learning more about cells through singular cell sequencing technologies and genome editing could significantly alter and improve our knowledge and the treatments available for diseases such as cancer, diabetes, infections etc.
The Biohub will also keep a permanent array of equipments and staff researchers ready at hand to ensure rapid response to medical emergencies — such as a particularly dangerous virus or a quick propagating disease.
The event concluded with Mark inviting philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates on the stage. An inspiration for millions, including Zuckerberg himself, Gates called the program very bold and ambitious.
Meanwhile, we can’t help but praise Zuckerberg and Chan for this. Investing billions of your own money to make the world a better place is no meant feat. By tackling diseases at their very core, the CZS has the potential to ensure a ling and happy life for the next generation of humans. If it is achieved, it will truly be a monumental step towards realizing Zuckerberg’s dream of “unlocking human potential” and leaving the world a better place than we found it.