The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative on Wednesday announced a $3 billion commitment toward helping find cures for all of the diseases facing humans by the end of the century.
The initiative by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, pediatrician Priscilla Chan, is part of the couple's philanthropic efforts to better life for all children in their daughter's generation. The pair are kicking off their efforts with a $600 million investment in creating the BioHub, a lab to be located in San Francisco's Mission Bay neighborhood that will bring together engineers and scientists from Stanford, Berkeley and UCSF. There, they will work on creating tools that can be used to find cures for all diseases.
"This is hard stuff, but it's important," said Zuckerberg, speaking at UCSF's Mission Bay campus. "If there is even a chance that we can cure all diseases in our children's life time ... then we're going to do our part."
For Zuckerberg and Chan the plan is simple: bring scientists together and provide the funding for them to create new tools that can help find new ways to cure diseases.
"This is particularly large and ambitious, but it's also an amazing in terms of the tools that are available. This is a huge thing," Microsoft co-founder and tech philanthropist Bill gates told Inc. Gates spoke during the event as well.
With a goal to cure diseases by the year 2100, CZI will allow their participating scientists to focus on long-term, multi-decade efforts that can begin to yield results some 30, 40 or 50 years from now.
At the Chan Zuckerberg BioHub, efforts will center on creating tools that can help find cures for the four major diseases from which humans die: heart disease, infectious diseases, cancer and neurological disease.
For the plan, CZI hopes to create a network of scientists and labs like the BioHub that will work together toward the goal of curing all diseases. CZI is actively looking for more partners who would be interested in participating in the effort. Once completed, the tools that are created will be made available to scientists everywhere, said Cori Bargmann, the president of science for CZI.
"If you take great people and set them loose on important problems in an intelligent way and give them a long time horizon, there will be progress," Bargmann said.
The types of tools they will create include artificial intelligence tools for mapping the brain or machine learning technology that can track and learn about all types of cancers. One of the first tools the BioHub will work on is a cell atlas to categorize all of the cells found in the human body.
"It's amazing that nobody really knows how many different cell types there are in the human body," said Stephen Quake, co-director of the Chan Zuckerberg BioHub. "The better we understand these cell types and how they affect disease, the better we will be able to develop new therapies to treat and cure disease."
Aside from putting in their own money, Chan and Zuckerberg also plan to help push a movement to increase the funding for science initiatives like their own.
"The more people who believe we can cure all diseases in our children's lifetime, the more likely we are to get our government to invest in it. And then the more likely it is to actually happen," Zuckerberg said. "We need your help, and it's an area where we can all do something really important together."