Mark Zuckerberg spends billions in medical research

As of: December 8th, 2021 1:36 p.m.

The charity of Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan plans to invest another $ 3.4 billion in medical research. What’s behind it?

By Angela Göpfert,

Defeat all diseases by the end of the century – Mark Zuckerberg promised no less when he and his wife Priscilla Chan announced the founding of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) on the occasion of the birth of their daughter Max in 2015. At the time, many observers thought this was megalomania; or just for another tech billionaire’s spin.

However, it was already clear at the time: At CZI, things shouldn’t be messed about, but rather padded. After all, in a letter to their daughter, the couple had committed themselves to investing 99 percent of their Facebook shares (value at the time: around 45 billion dollars) in education and the cure of diseases while she was still alive. In 2016 the “CZI Science Program” was founded.

Investments of $ 3.4 billion

On the occasion of its fifth anniversary, Chan and Zuckerberg presented yesterday how they intend to achieve their goal in concrete terms. They outlined the mission as follows: It is about being able to observe, measure and analyze every biological process in the human body – three-dimensionally and in real time.

To this end, new research methods and technologies are to be developed over the next ten to 15 years. In total, another $ 3.4 billion will be invested in medical research. For comparison: in 2020 the global spending of pharmaceutical companies on research and development was around 200 billion dollars. The branch is considered to be an industry with particularly high research expenditures.

AI institute named after Zuckerberg’s mother

CZI spokesman Jeff McGregor said that $ 500 million will go to a new institute at Harvard University that specializes in artificial intelligence. The Kempner Institute for Natural and Artificial Intelligence, named after Zuckerberg’s mother Karen Kempner Zuckerberg, is scheduled to open at the end of 2022.

Another $ 600 to $ 900 million will be invested in a new CZI biomedical imaging institute. One billion dollars will go to the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Network. The aim is to network the top scientists from institutes around the world in order to master “great scientific challenges” together.

When big data meets medical research

After all, $ 800 million to $ 1 billion will go to the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub. The main focus here is the development of technologies to help fight disease.

The new CZI projects thus once again bear the clear signature of both spouses – here the detail-obsessed tech nerd, there the committed pediatrician and Harvard graduate; Big data thinking here, basic medical research there. The world of data and the world of medicine should be brought closer and interlinked in order to catapult medical research into the digital age – that is the link that connects all CZI projects.

Model of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The fact that tech billionaires donate large sums of money to a good cause is by no means new. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has spent over $ 60 billion on charity since it was founded in 2000.

The Gates Foundation primarily targets developing countries, where it helps fight diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and polio – diseases that still kill millions of people each year. Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates have announced that they will continue to work together in the world’s largest private foundation after their divorce in August.

Growing criticism of the group

With their initiative, the Chan-Zuckerbergs want to pursue a much broader approach, go more into basic research and not concentrate on individual diseases. Especially Zuckerberg is likely to have a great interest in making headlines in a positive context.

Zuckerberg’s mega-corporation, which was once called Facebook and would now prefer to be called Meta Platforms, recently came under increasing criticism. For a change, the focus was less on data protection practices than on the Group’s recommendation algorithms.

The so-called “Facebook Papers” had fired, among other things, allegations that Meta was approving of the fact that the Instagram subsidiary endangered the mental health of children. Zuckerberg had recently described the uproar as “unfair”.

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