Wednesday 28 September 2016

Zuckerberg pledges €3bn 'to rid world of disease'

Marion Dakers, Los Angeles

Published 23/09/2016 | 02:30

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan: the couple have pledged €3bn for medical research. Picture: AP
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan: the couple have pledged €3bn for medical research. Picture: AP

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan have vowed to spend $3bn over the next decade to try and cure all diseases.

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The Facebook founder and his wife, who pledged to give away 99pc of their wealth to good causes following the birth of their daughter last year, said the money would be used to assist scientific work and build new research tools.

The goal, which they are unlikely to live to see accomplished, is to "cure, prevent or manage all disease" in the next 80 or so years.

"So if you even just assume that we'll be able to continue to make progress on that same trajectory, then that implies that by the end of this century we will have been able to solve most of these types of things," Mr Zuckerberg said in an interview.

He and Ms Chan, who has worked as a paediatrician, have spent the past two years speaking to scientists and other experts to plan the endeavour. He emphasised "that this isn't something where we just read a book and decided we're going to do.

"We spend 50 times more on healthcare, treating people who are sick, than we spend on science research (to cure) diseases so that people don't get sick in the first place," Mr Zuckerberg said. He added that the approach reflects a belief that "people are always going to suffer from disease so therefore we should focus on treating people who are sick".

The Facebook founder is worth about $56bn, thanks to shares in his own company. Mr Zuckerberg has asked other shareholders to allow him to give away his stock without losing control of the company.

Their announcement comes in the same week that Microsoft made a pledge to "solve the problem of cancer" within a decade by reprogramming diseased cells.

The software giant has vowed to use ground-breaking computer science to crack the code of diseased cells so they can be reprogrammed back to a healthy state.

In a dramatic change of direction for the technology giant, the company has assembled a "small army" of the world's best biologists, programmers and engineers, who are tackling cancer as if it were a bug in a computer system.

This summer, Microsoft opened its first wet laboratory, where it will test out the findings of its computer scientists who are creating huge maps of the internal workings of cell networks.

The researchers are even working on a computer made from DNA which could live inside cells and look for faults in bodily networks, like cancer. If it spotted cancerous cells, it would reboot the system and clear out the diseased cells.

Irish Independent

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