Mark Zuckerberg is most known for his role in founding and leading Facebook, one of the largest social networking companies in the world; however, that is not his only venture.  Beyond Facebook, serves on the board of Chan Zuckerberg Biotech, and he is in the process of selling a significant portion of his stake in Facebook, almost $13 billion worth, to fund that startup.

The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub is a research center which was founded by Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.  The Biohub is funded largely in part by the Zuckerberg family and Linked cofounder Reid Hoffman.  The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub aims to accomplish what is known as the Chan Zuckerburg Initiative, which has the goal of curing, preventing, or managing all diseases “in our children’s lifetime.”

In large part, they accomplish that initiative by meeting with young promising scientists every quarter.  In the 2nd quarter, Zuckerberg and other members of the board have the opportunity to meet with Markita Landry, a chemical engineer from UC Berkeley.  Landry runs a lab at the university and has received funding from the Biohub to continue her effort to develop tools that are being used to measure the chemistry of the brain.  In the board meeting, Landry had the opportunity to share her work and the progress made thus far.  Likewise, Zuckerberg had the ability to ask about how long it will take to implement her technology on a wider scale and what sort of influence it could potentially have on the scientific community.  Landry was able to inform the board that her eventual goal was to use her knowledge and research to develop drugs that could eventually help alleviate mental health conditions, like depression.

As a whole, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) has been in action for just about two and a half years.  The company started small but now has more than 250 employees.  From the beginning, CZI’s motto to cure, prevent, or manage all diseases has received criticism, as experts and doctors say that they make it sound much easier than it actually is.  On the other hand, notable philanthropist Bill Gates views Zuckerberg’s plan as safe and aspirational.  Marc Malandro, the CZI science teams’ vice president of operations, commented on the criticism, saying “I agree that it would be a tough sell if we were a research institution thinking that we alone are going to cure, prevent and manage all disease.  But what we’re talking about doing is developing data, enabling scientists, funding scientists, and helping drive culture change around open science.”  Furthermore, Chan acknowledged that their goal was bold, but stated that..

“if we focus on empowering scientists with tools to unlock their work and the field — that goal could be within our reach.”  Chan went on to say, “From my career, I’ve found that breaking down silos that exist across the health and education systems often lead to big breakthroughs — so that is one focus of our work.”

To this point, Zuckerberg has already sold nearly 29 million shares of Facebook stock, worth more than $5 billion to fund the Biohub.  He plans to sell at least an additional 40 million shares of stock to get near that $13 billion value.


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