SAN FRANCISCO – The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative said on Wednesday it would
commit US$3 billion over the next 10 years to help cure, prevent or manage all
diseases by the end of the 21st century, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.
An emotional Priscilla Chan, wife of Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive
officer (CEO) of Facebook Inc., told an event in San Francisco about her
educational experience growing up in a Chinese-Vietnamese family, and experience
as a pediatrician and as a mother.
When Zuckerberg took the stage and talked about the couple’s new commitment,
he asked: “Can we cure all diseases in our children’s lifetime?”
“Today, just four kinds of diseases cause the majority of deaths,”
Zuckerberg said via his Facebook account, citing cancer, heart disease,
infectious diseases and neurological diseases. “We can make progress on all of
them with the right technology.”
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, or CZI, was launched as a philanthropic
organisation in December 2015 for the birth of the couple’s daughter, Maxima
Chan Zuckerberg, on a mission of advancing human potential and promoting
The new programme, called Chan Zuckerberg Science (CZS), is part of the CZI
that will bring together teams of scientists and engineers to build new tools
for medical research.
Saying that “as a pediatrician I’ve worked with families at the most
difficult moments of their lives,” Chan pledged “we’ll be investing in basic
science research with the goal of curing disease.”
“We can do better than that,” Zuckerberg said about research funding and the
status quo that the United States spends 50 times more on treating people who
are sick than on finding cures so people do not get sick in the first place.
Of the US$3 billion donation for CZS, US$600 million will be for the Biohub,
a new research centre at the University of California, San Francisco, which will
be joined by researchers from Stanford University and the University of
Cori Bragmann, a neurobiologist who will head the CZS, said output from the
organisation will be available to all doctors and researchers.
“We are excited to see such a generous and timely investment in fundamental
scientific work across the Bay Area,” said Jennifer Doudna, UC Berkeley
professor of molecular and cell biology and chemistry.
“The Biohub will allow researchers at leading institutions to collaborate
and accelerate the development of breakthrough scientific and medical
advancements, applications and therapeutics. ”
Doudna, best known for her pioneering work on CRISPR-Cas9, a gene-editing
technology that has the potential to revolutionise genetics, molecular biology
and medicine, is a member of the Biohub’s Science Advisory Group.
UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks said in a statement that “in bringing
together three world-class research universities in UC Berkeley, UCSF, and
Stanford, the Biohub represents the type of cross-institutional collaborative
environment that will be critical for addressing the most pressing life sciences
challenges of our time.”