The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, a non-profit medical research organization started by Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg (and not to be confused with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a limited liability corporation to advance human potential) today announced it would be doling out a total of $50 million to its first cohort of disease investigators.
The Biohub brings together Bay Area universities including the University of California, Berkeley; the University of California, San Francisco; and Stanford. One of the keystones to this collaboration effort is the investigative program.
Forty-seven investigators have been chosen out of 700 faculty members who applied, each receiving up to $1.5 million over the span of five years to go toward their research aims.
Investigators can study anything from organ printing techniques to studying how cells assemble — all with the Biohub’s goal to “cure, prevent or manage all diseases.”
It’s a bold aim. Many research institutes focus on just one disease. Another Silicon Valley initiative, The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, as the name implies, only looks at cancer. Billionaire and former Facebook president Sean Parker, who started his cancer institute with the same name, has a separate initiative for allergy research.
But the Biohub takes the opposite approach. Opening itself to all types of research instead in an effort to make great scientific strides.
“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,” co-president of the Biohub, Joe DeRisi says.
And while the Biohub isn’t the first to hand out cash to wet lab geeks in hopes of making life-altering discoveries, it’s not like the XPRIZE or some other sort of competition after the selection process is done. In fact, DeRisi tells us there’s much less emphasis on achieving goals and more on finding new insights — including in basic science that does not have to be disease-focused.
He points to discoveries like CRISPR-Cas9 as a prime example of something that comes out of this type of collaboration. “No one would have predicted it would be the actual key technology to most of the bold new innovations in healthcare that are coming down the line,” DeRisi said.
In addition to the investigator program, the Biohub has a few other large-scale initiatives such as the Infectious Disease Initiative to discover new ways to fight dengue fever and Zika outbreaks, as well as the Cell Atlas, a global project to map the cells in the human body in hopes it unlocks certain causes of disease and potentially leads to new therapies.
Those interested in a full list of the 47 new investigator initiatives can click here to find out more about them.