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Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Aims to Eradicate All Diseases Within 80 Years

SEP 29, 2016 | KRISTI ROSA
Mark Zuckerberg, known for connecting billions of people around the world with his creation of Facebook, is once again putting his efforts towards changing the world. Teaming up with his wife, Priscilla Chan, the Facebook CEO will be contributing $3 billion over the next ten years towards the eradication of all diseases.
 
After their daughter, Max, was born in December, the couple decided to put 99% of their Facebook shares towards improving the world. By providing scientists and engineers with the financial means to create new research tools, within the next 80 years, Zuckerberg surmises that his goal can be accomplished. Over the past two years, Zuckerberg and Chan have talked to many scientists to come up with a plausible plan to realize their goal within their timeframe, according to a press release.
 
Through their organization, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, they aim to “cure, prevent, or manage all disease,” by bringing together scientists and engineers to work in a collaborative effort to conduct basic research. The press release mentions a cell atlas as an example, which will essentially “map out” all of the cells within the human body, which could inform new drug development.
 
Zuckerberg stresses the importance of a collaborative effort to see quicker results. In a video on their official website, Zuckerberg said, “Most of the big breakthroughs that have happened through the history of science are not done by a single person, right? They’re done by a group of scientists either working together or working separately and sharing data, building tools to push the whole field forward. If you can make those connections happen faster, then you take progress that might have taken 10 or 15 years for people to make those connections and you make that happen now.”
 
An example of this collaboration is embodied within their new center, Biohub, which is a research center based at the University of California (UC), San Francisco (SF) but will be working with UC Berkeley and Stanford University. World class engineers will be putting their efforts into creating new research tools that the whole scientific community can use to work on curing disease.
 
In the video, Joe DeRisi, PhD, professor and chair of Biochemistry and Biophysics at UCSF, and co-director of Biohub, said that the Biohub will provide, “access to software engineering teams and a level of expertise in computer science that most academics have never had access to before.” He continued, “If the tool doesn’t exist, you’re going to build it. If the software, doesn’t exist, you’re going to write it.” In an interview transcribed in a USCF press release, Dr. DeRisi discusses his involvement in Biohub and how it creates opportunities for research collaboration further.
 
Cornelia Bargmann, PhD, neurobiologist at The Rockefeller University in New York City, will head the Chan Zuckerberg science initiative.  In a video on the official website, Dr. Bargmann said, “What I’m really excited about is getting together with the best scientific minds and coming up with plans to really develop the transformative technologies to build the networks of science to solve the important problems. I really view Chan Zuckerberg Science as an opportunity to move the needle, both in terms of the advances we make in science and in terms of the way that science is done.” In an interview with Science, Dr. Bargmann discussed her involvement in the project and if she feels the goal can be met within the estimated timeframe. 
 
Although the aforementioned time frame might put the skeptics on edge, Zuckerberg and his team feel that this goal can be accomplished. In the video, Zuckerberg said, “We asked a lot of leading scientists ‘is it possible within our children’s lifetimes to cure, prevent, and manage all diseases?’ and to our surprise, a lot of people think that this is something that is not only possible, but I think that will be one of the most important things that our generation leaves for the next generation.”
 
Feature Picture Source: Nicki Dugan Pogue / flickr / Creative Commons.
 
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