October 7, 2016
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have set a lofty goal for themselves. By the end of the century, they want to “cure, prevent, and manage” all disease. To further that ambition, Zuckerberg has pledged to donate $3 billion dollars over the next ten years. Zuckerberg and Chan made the announcement together at an event at the University of California, San Francisco in front of a sign that read, “Can we cure all diseases in our children’s lifetime?”
“By investing in science today we hope to build a future where all our children can live long and rewarding lives”
— Priscilla Chan
Pediatrician and Philanthropist
The Plan to Cure All Diseases in Three Steps
This noble and ambitious endeavor cannot be accomplished with Zuckerberg’s $3 billion investment alone, but it’s a start in the right direction. Zuckerberg and Chan outlined their plan in three broad phases.
- Bring scientists and engineers together
- Create tools and technology
- Build a movement to fund more research
The first step for the couple is a $600 million investment in what is called the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub. The Biohub is a new research facility meant to assemble top engineers, computer scientists, researchers, and others who will work together on these research projects. This initiative is in partnership with Stanford, Berkeley, and UCSF.
Once established, the Biohub’s first two areas of focus will be:
- Infectious Diseases: A broad topic, to be sure, but the Biohub will first focus on finding cures, remedies, and preventions for infectious diseases, such as Ebola, Zika, HIV, and others.
- Cell Atlas: This project intends to map and categorize all the different types of cells in the human body.
Putting Charity in Perspective
It’s certainly admirable for Zuckerberg and Chan to donate such a large sum of money to this cause, but put in perspective, it’s not enough. There are already a number of large organizations donating and spending the same or even more money to combat the same diseases. For example, the National Institute of health has an annual budget of $32 billion.
Don’t misunderstand, every dollar helps, and the money Zuckerberg and Chan have pledged will go a long way, but if they want to truly achieve their goal, it’s going to take a lot more. They will need to build a massive movement to raise enough funds to achieve more than what other organizations are already doing.
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For Further Reading
Elsewhere in medical research, there are geneticists working on CRISPR technology, a technique that allows scientists to manipulate the genes in a population. Instead of curing the disease, this technique would prevent future generations of mosquitos from being able to carry the disease.