Over the next decade, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan say they will invest $3 billion in a sweeping effort to cure all diseases in the lifetime of today’s children.
“We are at the limit of our ability to alleviate suffering,” Chan, a pediatrician, said this morning at an event in San Francisco. “We want to push back at that boundary.”
About a year ago, after the birth of their daughter Max, the couple announced a new philanthropic venture they called the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, saying it would give as much as $45 billion to charity over the course of their lifetimes. But until today, they have said little about how this giving would work—though they have invested in tech educational startups abroad, including one in Africa and another in India.
Chan acknowledged that the organization’s goal is extreme, but she said she very much believes in it, tearing up at one point during her speech. “This doesn’t mean no one will get sick,” she said. “But it does mean that our children and their children should get sick a lot less.”
The Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative is one of many philanthropic efforts that have sprung from the world of tech. Tech titans from Bill Gates to Pierre Omidyar to Marc Benioff have donated massive sums to charity. Gates appeared at today’s event, a symbol of the mantle Zuckerberg and his wife are assuming.
As Zuckerberg described it, the plan is to bring scientists and engineers together; build tools and technology; and grow the movement to fund science. To that end, the Initiative is first creating a $600 million “BioHub” in San Francisco that designed to foster collaboration among researchers at Stanford, UCSF, and UC Berkeley. The idea is to create a central organization that will focus on recruiting talent, opening the lines of communication among that talent, and supporting their work in the long term. “Our society spends fifty times more investing in treating people who are sick than in curing diseases so people don’t get sick,” Zuckerberg said.
The group will develop new tools for science, which, Zuckerberg said, often precedes scientific breakthroughs. In particular, he said that AI and machine learning could help analyze the brain, monitor blood and catch diseases at an earlier stage. And he vowed any tools built by the group would be “available to every scientist, everywhere.”
His goal is enormous. But worth shooting for. As Gates said: “We desperately need this science.”