Chan-Zuckerberg health project injects $50M into new Biohub scientists

Billionaire husband-and-wife team Priscilla Chan and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg have stumped up around $50 million to fund 47 “CZ Biohub” investigators from across U.S. academia.

The project comes five months after the pair said they would invest around $3 billion over the next 10 years into a series of science-led projects designed to “cure, prevent or manage all disease within our children’s lifetime.”

The first wave of investigators come from an array of academic posts out of faculty of the University of California in Berkeley, Stanford University and the University of California in San Francisco.

Each will get a five-year contract and up to $1.5 million in funding to conduct life science research in their areas of expertise, which includes biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, mathematics and physics.

“CZ Biohub Investigators share our vision of a planet without disease,” said Joseph DeRisi, co-president of CZ Biohub and professor of biochemistry and biophysics at UC San Francisco.

“To realize this vision, we are giving some of the world’s most creative and brilliant researchers access to ground-breaking technology and the freedom to pursue high-risk research. CZ Biohub Investigators will challenge traditional thinking in pursuit of radical discoveries that will make even the most stubborn and deadly diseases treatable.”

The idea is to make much of the research transparent, with the investigators signing up to a deal that sees their draft publications widely available through pre-print server, according to a statement.

Chan and Zuckerberg added that, in “the spirit of collaboration and cooperation,” the CZ Biohub also plans to build up shared technology platforms available to Bay Area scientists, in order “to further their research and build momentum for the worldwide fight against disease.”

The first project to come out of the new initiative, called Cell Atlas, is also in the pipe to seek to create a map that describes the different types of cells that control the body's major organs.

The second project, known as the Infectious Disease Initiative, is slated to make new tests and vaccines to tackle infectious diseases, including HIV, Ebola, Zika and others.