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Facebook CEO and wife commit US$3 billion to medical research

THE Chan Zuckerberg Initiative said on Wednesday it would commit US$3 billion over the next 10 years to help cure, prevent or manage all diseases by the end of the 21st century.

An emotional Priscilla Chan, wife of Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer (CEO) of Facebook, Inc., told an event in San Francisco about her educational experience growing up in a Chinese-Vietnamese family, and experience as a pediatrician and as a mother.

When Zuckerberg took the stage and talked about the couple's new commitment, he asked: "Can we cure all diseases in our children's lifetime?"

"Today, just four kinds of diseases cause the majority of deaths," Zuckerberg said via his Facebook account, citing cancer, heart disease, infectious diseases and neurological diseases. "We can make progress on all of them with the right technology."

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, or CZI, was launched as a philanthropic organization in December 2015 for the birth of the couple's daughter, Maxima Chan Zuckerberg, on a mission of advancing human potential and promoting equality.

The new program, called Chan Zuckerberg Science (CZS), is part of the CZI that will bring together teams of scientists and engineers to build new tools for medical research.

Saying that "as a pediatrician I've worked with families at the most difficult moments of their lives," Chan pledged "we'll be investing in basic science research with the goal of curing disease."

"We can do better than that," Zuckerberg said about research funding and the status quo that the United States spends 50 times more on treating people who are sick than on finding cures so people do not get sick in the first place.

Of the 3 billion dollars donation for CZS, 600 million dollars will be for the Biohub, a new research center at the University of California, San Francisco, which will be joined by researchers from Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.

Cori Bragmann, a neurobiologist who will head the CZS, said output from the organization will be available to all doctors and researchers.

"We are excited to see such a generous and timely investment in fundamental scientific work across the Bay Area," said Jennifer Doudna, UC Berkeley professor of molecular and cell biology and chemistry.

"The Biohub will allow researchers at leading institutions to collaborate and accelerate the development of breakthrough scientific and medical advancements, applications and therapeutics."

Doudna, best known for her pioneering work on CRISPR-Cas9, a gene-editing technology that has the potential to revolutionize genetics, molecular biology and medicine, is a member of the Biohub's Science Advisory Group.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks said in a statement that "in bringing together three world-class research universities in UC Berkeley, UCSF, and Stanford, the Biohub represents the type of cross-institutional collaborative environment that will be critical for addressing the most pressing life sciences challenges of our time."


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