How the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative Could Change the Future of Healthcare

Mark Zuckerberg, the face of Facebook, announced the birth of his first daughter, Max late in 2015. To celebrate this momentous occasion and make sure his daughter grows up in a better world, he and his wife Priscilla Chan started the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, an LLC designed to allow Zuckerberg and Chan to donate almost all of their Facebook stock to charity during their lifetimes. While noble, this commitment from Facebook’s first family could also help to shape and change the future of healthcare.

Goals of the CZI

According to Zuckerberg’s open letter to his daughter on Facebook, the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative or CZI will be focused on two primary goals: promoting equality in favor of human progress, and the overall advancement of human potential. What does that mean in the long run?

When it comes to promoting equality, the goal is to make sure that everyone has access to all available opportunities, no matter what. Its core goal is to disregard everything that currently divides us — like gender, religion, race and income — to allow everyone the same chance at greatness.

The advancement of human potential, according to Zuckerberg, is about “pushing the boundaries on how great a human life can be.” This is wrapped up in long term investments in projects like curing disease — not one specific disease, but the concept of disease as a whole.

The funding for these great endeavors comes from the collective Chan-Zuckerberg Facebook stocks, valued in the ballpark of $45 billion.

Tech + Healthcare = The Future

The cure or management of all disease is a lofty goal. The idea of doing it by the end of the century might seem out of reach if not for the introduction of technology into healthcare. Specifically, the fairly new medical disciplines of computational biology and bioinformatics utilize constantly advancing technology to make leaps and connections that humans couldn’t have done alone.

Computational biology takes the available biological data and plugs it into a computer that analyzes it in full. Rather than looking at one piece of information at a time, the computer reviews everything much faster than the human eye, and it finds the puzzle pieces that fit together.

Computational biology is used with quite a bit of success to predict drug-target interactions, and it could potentially be used to assist in clinical trial participant selection. When testing an experimental drug or treatment, participants should be as close as possible to the type of patient that the treatment or drug will eventually help. Utilizing computational biology and a database of trial participant demographic or genetic material, the trial selection process could be streamlined, and the trials themselves made more effective.

CZI’s goals are lofty, but not unachievable. To start this amazing trek toward the cure or management of all diseases, $3 billion has been invested in a startup known as Chan Zuckerberg Biohub. The startup will bring together the most brilliant minds from facilities like Stanford, Berkley and UCSF in a centralized location in San Francisco to create new and innovative ways to fight disease.

It’s the first step in a long and likely uphill battle, but Chan and Zuckerberg have started us on the road to the future of healthcare. We must also be willing to put our feet on the road.

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