By Barry Eitel
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, announced an ambitious initiative Wednesday to cure all diseases within a generation.
At an address at the University of California, San Francisco campus, Zuckerberg and Chan said they would donate $3 billion of their fortune to the project. The couple asked if humanity can cure diseases, ranging from cancer to malaria to the common cold, within the lifetime of today’s children.
“Mark and I spent the past two years talking to scientists ranging from Nobel Prize laureates to graduate students," Chan said. “We believe that the future we all want for our children is possible. We set a goal: can we cure all diseases in our children's lifetime? That doesn't mean that no one will ever get sick. But it does mean that our children and their children should get sick a lot less. And that we should be able to detect and treat or at least manage it as an ongoing condition. Mark and I believe this is possible within our children's lifetime.”
Through the couple’s philanthropic organization, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the pair is funding a $600 million research center in San Francisco called the Biohub, which will form partnerships with medical researchers from surrounding universities including UCSF, Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.
The Biohub, which will represent the first phase of the couple’s $3 billion investment, will focus on bringing medicine and technology together to build “new tools” to fight disease. One of the first projects is to create a “cell atlas,” an unprecedented account of the location and molecular make-up of every cell in the human body.
“It's going to take years before the first tools are built, and years after that before the first diseases are treated,” Zuckerberg said. “We have to be patient.”