No one could ever accuse Mark Zuckerberg of a lack of ambition.
Currently overseeing the world’s biggest social network, which he co-founded in 2004 when he was a college student, and working determinedly to bring internet connectivity to remote and underdeveloped parts of the planet, he also has his mind set on curing all diseases within the next 100 years or so.
No, he’s not about to don a white lab coat to tackle the issue himself, though we wouldn’t be particularly surprised if he did. Instead, he and wife Priscilla have pledged $3 billion to fund medical research over the next decade.
The money will be distributed by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, an organization the pair founded in December last year with the aim of “advancing human potential and promoting equality.”
Taking on the four major illnesses
“Can we help scientists to cure, prevent or manage all diseases within our children’s lifetime?” the Zuck wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday, adding, “I’m optimistic we can.”
“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.”
The Facebook boss said that at the current time, four types of illness – cancer, heart disease, infectious diseases, and neurological diseases – account for the majority of deaths, and suggested that serious progress can be made to “cure, prevent, or manage” these diseases “with the right technology.”
The $3 billion fund, Zuckerberg explained, will be used to bring together scientists and engineers to help build new tools and technologies to take on the grand challenge.
The opening project will be a $600 million investment in a medical-focused research facility called the Biohub involving scientists and engineers from Stanford, UCSF, Berkeley, as well as an experienced engineering team from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
One of the Biohub’s first projects will be to closely examine the different kinds of cells that control the body’s organs. It’ll also work on creating new tests and vaccines in a bid to overcome challenges such as HIV, Ebola, and Zika.
“The science initiative is a long term effort,” the Zuck said. “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 announced at the end of last year that he and Chan would give away 99 percent of their fortune to good causes over their lifetime,
Zuckerberg finished Wednesday’s post: “If there’s a chance that we can help cure all diseases in our children’s lifetime, then we will do our part. Together, we have a real shot at leaving the world a better place for our children than we found it.”