Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan announced an ambitious plan to "cure all disease" by the end of the century and are pledging a $3 billion investment to fund it.
The Chan Zuckerberg initiative will be administering the donation (read: investment), aiming to support researchers and scientists working on projects that would take years or even decades to yield results.
This project to cure all disease doesn't mean that no one will ever get sick again - that would not be realistic. What is realistic, however, is that Chan and Zuckerberg aim to fund this plan to dramatically reduce the frequency and severity of disease on a global scale.
The four most lethal diseases are currently heart disease, accounting for 10.8 million, or 19.2 percent of deaths, cancer, responsible for 8.2 million, or 14.6 percent of deaths, infectious disease, killing 8.5 million, or 15.1 percent of people, and neurological disease such as stroke, causing 6.8 million, or 12.1 percent of deaths.
These statistics offer a starting point, says Zuckerberg.
"It's easy to imagine modern tools that could unlock progress in each of the four major disease categories today: AI software to interpret brain imaging or datasets of cancer genomes, a chip to diagnose any infectious disease, continuous bloodstream monitoring to identify diseases early, and maps of all the different cell types and states to help design drugs to combat any given disease," says Zuckerberg.
Focusing on such modern tools outlines a roadmap to assist in curing, preventing and managing all diseases. Developing tools that would offer a different view on each major disease could help scientists make breakthroughs faster.
Developing such tools, however, requires new means of handling and funding science beyond the small grants that are available today. Through this new investment of $3 billion over a decade, CZI aims to enable large groups of scientists around the world to focus on challenging projects that could take a long time to yield progress. Scientists would be given the opportunity to work similarly to how coders do their magic within Silicon Valley startups. Projects may pay off in 20 or 50 years, but they will eventually yield results.
"Remember, this is a long term effort," Zuckerberg adds. "We plan to invest billions of dollars over decades. It will take years for the first tools to be developed, and then years after that before they are used to cure diseases. This is hard and we need to be patient, but it's important."