Facebook Inc. (FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his pediatrician wife Dr. Priscilla Chan announced today that they have committed to spend $3 billion in the next 10 years to “cure, prevent, or manage all disease within our children’s lifetime.” They plan to accomplish this goal by employing a threefold strategy: employing an interdisciplinary approach to solving problems that brings engineers and scientists together, developing new tools and technologies, and promoting science education.
In her address announcing the initiative, Chan clarified that their goal does not 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,” she said. Dr. Cori Bargmann, neuroscientist at Rockefeller University in New York, will head the new initiative. (For more, see also: The Dreamers of Silicon Valley: Amazon, Facebook and Google.)
As a start, the couple is providing $600 million to a research center in San Francisco. Known as Biohub, the research center is a partnership between UC San Francisco, Stanford University and UC Berkeley and will be staffed by scientists and engineers from the three places. Its first project is Cell Atlas, a venture that delves into interactions between cells of different body organs and creates a map. The Center will also work on another project that aims to speed up detection and response to infectious diseases. Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft Inc. (MSFT) board, appeared at the end of Zuckerberg and Chan’s presentation to commend their “very bold, very ambitious” challenge.
Zuckerberg and Chan formed the initiative after the birth of their daughter Max. The initiative is a vehicle for them to give away 99% of their $45 billion fortune and Zuckerberg will gift not more than $1 billion of stock each year to the initiative. The organization became embroiled in controversy after journalists discovered that it was registered as an LLC, instead of as a non-profit. The initiative has made two investments, besides the announcement today. They are in Andela, a startup that teaches coding to students in Africa, and Byju, an education startup based in India. (For more, see also: Zuckerberg Makes First Philanthropic Investment.)