Zuckerberg sells Facebook shares for $ 13 billion so that “our children never have to be sick”
Mark Zuckerberg sells 75 million of his Facebook shares to sponsor an ambitious project to cure humanity from all diseases - as part of the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, created in honor of the birth of his first daughter, Maxims. The fund is managed by Zuckerberg's wife, licensed pediatrician Priscilla Chan. The task is to eliminate the most common diseases "even during the life of our children." The multi-billion dollar fund will bring together large teams of scientists to achieve global objectives, such as building an atlas on the characteristics and tasks of each cell in the human body. Work has already begun.
Meetings of the board of directors at the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative ( ICC ) are now held with the presence of Facebook founder, his wife Priscilla, and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman. They meet each quarter to select a new group of scientists (or one scientist), who will be given almost unlimited resources to develop his project. The scientist is invited to a conference room in Palo Alto, and after a short interview becomes part of the Initiative.
The first such researchers were selected at the beginning of 2017 - the foundation spent $ 50 million to attract 47 scientists. Each of them received funding from $ 800 thousand to $ 1.5 million for five years to achieve some results. The subject of the study can be any one - from the 3D-printing of organs to the decoding of the human genome. Only one requirement: all research results must be openly published online in order to become the common heritage of mankind.
In April 2017, another “lucky ticket” pulled Markita Landry, a chemical engineer from a laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley (who is considered the best state university in the world). Her work concerns the development of tools to measure brain chemistry - which can help fight depression and other psychological disorders. She says that during the “interview” Zuckerberg asked her a few questions: what did she achieve in this area at the moment, how much time is needed to introduce such technology into everyday life, and what impact she can have on people's real lives. Moreover, as it turned out, it was important for Mark that the scientist thought not about what would happen in the coming weeks or months, but thought for decades.
Explaining the foundation's mission in a promotional video, Priscilla shed a tear. Mark, as usual, shows no emotion.
Facebook's recent problems have led many shareholders to think that it may be time for the company to change its manager. For 18 months, Zuckerberg has been under attack because of the site’s involvement in voter fraud in the last US election (as well as due to similar incidents with elections in Mexico, Pakistan, etc.). When a few months ago, Mark revealed that he was going to sell 75 million of his Facebook shares, $ 13 billion at that time, before March-2019, to sponsor the ICC Foundation, many thought that “the captain was the first to run from the ship”. During this year, Zuckerberg has already sold $ 5.5 billion worth of shares, which was one of the factors reducing the valuation of his company. But Mark, according to friends, does not care: he has enough money. And thanks to the “ dual class stock“On Facebook, he can maintain control over the company's actions even after selling his share.
What is ICC doing now?
For two and a half years, the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative has already gained momentum. It employs 250 people who select applications and monitor the spending of grants. The founder of Facebook is convinced that the program has a great future. He explained his position at a conference meeting with investors in 2016, when they began to worry about his promise to give 99% of his fortune to charity:
In my opinion, we have a real opportunity to prevent, cure or control all diseases in the next 100 years. This is especially true of heart disease, cancer, stroke, neurodegenerative and infectious diseases.
Such a statement was then criticized. How can a person who has no experience in the treatment of diseases and who does not understand the situation speak about solving all problems with such ease? But Bill Gates, who had already saved 6 million African children from malaria by that time, and helped prevent diseases in 122 million people, strongly supported Zuckerberg. “Such words and such support are exactly what science needs.”
The founder of Facebook later also got better. According to him, he was not talking specifically about his initiative. Of course, even if he sells all his shares, one ICC will not stop all illnesses in 100 years. But his foundation is able to unite scientists and give them a safe and secure place to conduct their research. It will also help make information more accessible, and create a global infrastructure that will help all biotechnology scientists.
For example, ICA is one of the main investors in the Human Cell Atlas project . This is an initiative whose goal is to know what each individual cell in the human body is doing. This amount of data can not be collected by any individual research group. But there are teams involved in the brain, there are scientists working on the eyes, muscles, and so on. Together, they can make a complete "map" of a person, with which working on new vaccines and finding the causes of diseases will become much easier.
BioHub project leaders within the ICHC
Another project that is beginning to give off is $ 12.5 million for scientists working on technologies for visualization centers. X-ray scanning is the last century: now a person will be able to see his heart, his kidneys or any other organ in real time (or in the record), with highlighted places in which “everything is not so smooth”. And doctors will be able to more accurately determine the range of possible problems.
Zuckerberg personally attends most of the important meetings of the foundation. Including twice a year, it goes deeper into the prospects and pace of development of Human Cell Atlas. But the rest of the fund is managed by his wife, Priscilla Chan. She is in offices almost every day — two days in Palo Alto, three days in Redwood City, where they have a laboratory. She is immersed in all projects, knows what stage each scientific development is at. The ICC staff say that everyone loves her very much, especially because she always sits somewhere in the open so that everyone can come and talk to her.
The fund, after two years of attempts, was able to force teams of three universities - Berkeley, Stanford and San Francisco - to work with each other in the general BioHub (there were a lot of legal issues, ranging from who pays for watering cacti, and ending with university and in which case the rights belong to the publication of scientific works). But the main investments now go to separate projects and individual scientists. Fund managers say that here, at the insistence of Zuckerberg, they adopted the experience of venture capitalists in finding IT start-ups. Scientists are chosen according to the principle “person, not a project”. They are looking for "brilliant people" who can make a breakthrough, even if they do not have a concrete step-by-step plan now.
Priscilla Chan, the head and co-founder of the ICC, says in a letter to her staff:
We do not rely on any one discovery or one disease. In confronting major diseases that affect millions of people, a lot of money is already being invested, so our contribution there will be insignificant. It is more important for us to develop new strategies, new understandings in biology, in order to understand how any disease progresses, and to help fight them in the bud. I think the only way we can fundamentally advance science, and save the world from disease.
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