In September, Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, and his wife Priscilla Chan, a pediatrician, pledged to invest $3 billion over the next decade in an effort to cure, manage or prevent all types of disease by the year 2100.
Now, the duo has announced a list of 47 researchers who have been awarded the first round of grants, totaling $50 million. All of the investigators are from three of the nation’s top research universities – the University of California-San Francisco, UC Berkeley and Stanford.
The group is made up of 22 junior investigators and 25 senior investigators – of which 21 are women and 26 men. A total of 750 applications were sent in.
“This funding is unrestricted, giving these extraordinary Investigators the freedom to pursue their riskiest, most exciting ideas,” the Biohub site reads.
Each of the investigators will get $1.5 million in the next five years to carry out their work. The investigators are required to post their papers on open-access preprint servers, and they can apply for patents, which would be jointly owned by the Biohub and the researchers’ university.
Meetings will also be held periodically at the Biohub Building in San Francisco.
The 47 faculty members have varying areas of expertise and goals for their research projects, from understanding the underlying mechanisms of psychiatric diseases to pioneering x-ray crystallographic studies, and developing new miniaturized technology to provide real-time data about molecular and physiological states.
The grant reviewers picked out researchers who emphasized focusing on basic research and “risky” ideas.
For example, Alex Marson, of UCSF, aims to engineer a new generation of targeted therapies for autoimmune disorders, immunodeficiencies and infectious diseases via genome editing technologies while Laura Waller, of UC Berkeley has a goal of developing simple and inexpensive microscopes that can image previously inaccessible information using computational microscopy, the joint design of imaging system hardware and software.
“The CZ Biohub has chosen some of Berkeley’s best and most innovative researchers, who offer an amazing breadth of expertise. This first cohort of Investigators illustrates the potential and promise of the CZ Biohub to push the boundaries of biomedical research, and to accelerate the development of breakthrough scientific and medical advancements, applications and therapeutics for the public’s benefit,” stated Nicholas Dirks, chancellor of UC Berkeley.
Sam Hawgood, chancellor of UCSF and Marc Tessier-Lavigne, President of Stanford, echoed Driks’ message and reiterated the importance and potential opportunities that arise from collaborative research.
The Biohub is being co-led by Joseph DeRisi, UCSF professor of biochemistry and biophysics, and Stephen Quake, Stanford professor of bioengineering and applied physics.
A full list of the 47 investigators and their brief biographies can be found here.