Chan Zuckerberg Biohub invests $50 million towards medical research

The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub ­– a non-profit organisation set up by Priscilla Chan and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg – has announced it will be delivering $50 million (around £40 million) to research initiatives combatting disease.

More than 700 investigators from three universities (the University of California, Berkeley; the University of California, San Francisco; and Stanford University) applied for funding from the programme. This number has been whittled down to 47, each of which will receive up to $1.5 million in funding over a five-year period.

The CZ Biohub’s aim is to “enable doctors to cure, prevent or manage all diseases during our children’s lifetime”. Not that ambitious, then. The shorter-term scope of the project will be to “address emerging health threats” such as the Zika virus, as well as an attempt to map every cell in the human body. More on that in the video below.

Not being dedicated to one particular disease gives the Biohub a very wide net to attract researchers. There’s the risk that this could spread the funding too thinly across a range of disparate investigations, although co-president of the CZ Biohub, Jeff Scott, believes that this openness is the best way to encourage scientific breakthroughs.   

“If you go back 100 years from right now and look at the rate of change and what has happened and you extrapolate into the future, you cannot predict the kinds of innovation and inventions and quantum leaps in our ability to cure disease or manage or prevent it,” Scott told TechCrunch.

If you like scrolling through scientists’ headshots, you can read more about those involved in the CZ Biohub’s investigator programme here.

The CZ Biohub forms part of the larger Chan Zuckerberg Initiative – a limited liability company that straddles investments in science, education and technology. It has a strong echo of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which recently announced the creation of a Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). Its purpose, overlapping with the CZ Biohub, will be to research and develop new vaccines and to help co-ordinate responses to outbreaks of disease.

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