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September 21, 2016

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Commits $3B to Fight Disease

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  • Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, M.D., today committed $3 billion toward basic research over the next decade, with the audacious goal of curing, preventing, or managing all diseases by the end of the century.

    The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, named for the pediatrician and the Facebook founder, chairman, and CEO, said the effort will be its second major focus area.

    The couple has already identified a first project, setting aside $600 million over 10 years toward a research center that will foster collaborations by professionals across multiple disciplines, “including engineers, computer scientists, biologists, chemists and other innovators.”

    The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, as the center will be known, was formed with Stanford University, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and University of California, Berkeley. It will be led by Joseph DeRisi, Ph.D., of UCSF, and Stephen Quake, D.Phil., of Stanford University.

    The Biohub plans to immediately launch two research projects set to be conducted over the next five years. One is a “Cell Atlas” map designed to depict the internal machinery of cells “in unprecedented detail, enabling scientists to search for the basic breakdown that occurs when disease strikes.”

    The other project will explore new approaches and develop new tools for creating drugs, diagnostic tests, and vaccines against infectious diseases that include HIV, Ebola, and Zika.

    The disease-fighting effort will be led by Cori Bargmann, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at The Rockefeller University, who will join the Initiative as its president of science.

    Dr. Bargmann will oversee development of a disease-fighting strategy that, according to the Initiative, will have three core elements:

    • Tackling major basic science questions and unlocking “widespread” medical breakthroughs by bringing scientists and engineers together in new ways.
    • Building new tools and technologies to advance research
    • Promoting the global funding of science research by “growing the movement.”

    “There is an incredible opportunity to bring scientists and engineers together to work in new ways, and to build tools that empower the whole scientific community. That is where we will focus our investments,” the Initiative said in a statement. “Over the coming weeks and months, Cori will work closely with our advisors and other experts to shape a strategy that maximizes the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s impact.”

    The Initiative also named seven scientists and experts to a new Science Advisory Board: Tobias Bonhoeffer, Ph.D., director of the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology; David Haussler, Ph.D., of University of California, Santa Cruz; Arthur Levinson, Ph.D., CEO of Calico (California Life Sciences LLC) and former Genentech CEO; Shirley Tilghman, Ph.D., president emerita of Princeton University;  Robert Tjian, Ph.D., president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Nobel laureate Harold Varmus, M.D., of Weill Cornell Medicine; and Huda Zoghbi, M.D., of Baylor College of Medicine.

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