Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced an ambitious initiative to cure, prevent, or manage all diseases within our children's lifetime. It's a lofty goal of epic proportion, and to kick start things, they've pledged to invest $3 billion over the next decade to help scientists cure diseases as part of what they're calling the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
While there's no doubt this is the most ambitious undertaking Zuckerberg and Chan have ever taken on, it's not an impossible task, not as far as they're concerned.
"Medicine has only been a modern science for about a century, and we've made incredible progress so far. Life expectancy has increased by 1/4 of a year per year since then, and if we only continue this trend, the average will reach 100 around the end of this century. Today, just four kinds of diseases cause the majority of deaths. We can make progress on all of them with the right technology," Zuckerberg and Chan point out.
From their vantage point of history, the majority of scientific breakthroughs throughout history have been preceded by the invention of new tools, things like the telescope and the microscope. With that in mind, they want to focus on bringing scientists and engineers together to build new tools and technologies that will ultimately be useful in eradicating diseases.
It starts with investing $600 million into the creation of the Biohub, a new research hub where scientists and engineers from Stanford, UCSF, Berkeley, and the team they're building at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will work together on building new tools and technologies. It won't happen overnight, but looking long- erm, Zuckerberg and Chan believe they'll ultimately be successful.
"The science initiative is a long term effort. We plan to invest billions of dollars over decades. But it will take years for these tools to be developed and longer to put them into full use. This is hard and we need to be patient, but it's important," Zuckerberg and Chan said.
Zuckerberg has long been committed to using Facebook as a means to improve the world, and with Chan by his side, those efforts have accelerated. The two became parents to a baby girl last December, a life event that helped motivate them to pledge 99 percent of their Facebook shares (at the time worth $45 billion) to philanthropy.