Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have announced that they are to invest $3 billion over the next decade to fund a rather ambitious goal to “cure, prevent, or manage all diseases by the end of the century.” At the launch of the new initiative, Zuckerberg said that 50 times more money was being spent on treating people who were already ill, rather than curing the disease that caused it, and this fundamentally needs to change.
Along with Chan, the pair will distribute the money through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative they founded in 2015, and will be used for three main principles, which he laid out at the event in San Francisco. First, they aim to bring both scientists and engineers together, then to help build tools and tech that accelerate research, and third to create a global movement to invest more money in science, hopefully bringing it all full circle.
Part of this plan is the construction of a $600 million “Biohub” at the University of California San Francisco, with the aim to bring together these scientists and engineers from Berkeley, Stanford, and UCSF in a way that has not yet occurred.
“Throughout the history of science, most of the major scientific breakthroughs have been preceded by some new tool and technology that allows you to see in new ways,” said Zuckerberg. “The telescope helped us understand astronomy and the universe, the microscope helped us understand cells and bacteria to help us develop treatments for infectious diseases, while DNA sequencing and editing helps us fight cancer and genetic disorders.”
It is this mixing of both the scientific and the technological world that has seemingly caught the eye of not only Zuckerberg and Chan, but also Microsoft. Their pledge follows hot on the heels of another tech giant also pushing further into the medical realm, as Microsoft announced earlier this week that they plan to turn their technology towards cancer in order to “solve” the disease using artificial intelligence tools. Part of this plan is to develop “individualized treatment based on the large database of potential cures,” while another is to use AI to assess changes seen in patients' tumors.
But Zuckerberg’s goal is far more wide-reaching than Microsoft's. The plan to “cure, prevent, or manage all diseases by the end of the century” is one that he fully expects will outlive both himself and Chan. How achievable the goal is is debatable, but with the couple having already pledged that they will give away 99 percent of their fortune, there is no doubt that they could make massive inroads.