Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg pledges $3bn to fight disease

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A staggering $3bn (£2.3bn) has been pledged towards medical research by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, with hopes to “cure, prevent or manage all disease by the end of the century”.

Speaking together in San Francisco, to an audience which included Bill Gates among many big names, the couple announced that the funds would be distributed by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

They have already committed $600m for the creation of Biohub, a new research centre. This is intended to bring biologists, chemists, computer scientists and engineers together, and will work on two projects to begin with.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative – a philanthropic company – was set up in December 2015. The couple announced in the same month that, in their lifetime, they would give away 99 per cent of their shares to “missions” intended to benefit health and education and other areas, promoting equality in the process.

This latest pledge is a highly ambitious move by the founder of Facebook. Zuckerberg stated that greater priority should be given to preventing diseases from occurring in the first place, rather than treating people who have contracted the diseases. He claimed that there is 50 times more money being spent on treatment, than prevention.

At the press conference, Zuckerberg stated his prediction that the average life expectancy would be more than 100 years by 2100.

However, he remained cautious on how quickly the contributions could have an impact, admitting that it could be many years before major breakthroughs are made, and even longer before they are successfully applied to patients.

In a note posted on Facebook, Zuckerberg said: “Today, most people die from four kinds of diseases: heart disease (10.8 million, 19.2%), cancer (8.2 million, 14.6%), infectious disease (8.5 million, 15.1%) and neurological disease like stroke (6.8 million, 12.1%),” and that the aim would be to utilise technology to make progress in fighting these.