Symbiosis with the Biohub


Today, my wife Michelle and I are announcing a $20 million commitment to support the work of the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, a new laboratory space in San Francisco where researchers and clinical scientists from Stanford, UCSF, and UC Berkeley will pursue life science breakthroughs in a cutting-edge, collaborative environment. I will be joining the Biohub board. Software and technology can transform science as it has other industries; technology and tools applied to disease can lead to exponential increase in disease identification, prevention, and cure.


Over the past few years, I’ve had many conversations with Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan about strategic ways to improve human welfare on a massive scale. We talk about the speed and leverage of technology, the magnification and realization of human potential, and lessons from Silicon Valley that may apply to helping the world.

Biohub is part of the larger Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which aims to cure, prevent, or manage all diseases by the end of the 21st century. It applies key techniques that enable the great Silicon Valley companies.

In deploying technology, early-career and established researchers alike will utilize high-tech tools and resources to power new and early research. Some of these tools will be expensive, but available here for collaborative work. Some of these tools will be custom-built, new, and unique. For example, Biohub researchers have started to develop an unprecedented Cell Atlas – a computational database of cell types and data that researchers around the world will be able to access.

In deploying people, the approach will allow bold initial projects similar to a venture model. Early projects with uncertain results can be quickly funded. Moreover, in the same way that Silicon Valley puts a great deal of human capital and shared knowledge at the fingertips of entrepreneurs, Biohub will similarly facilitate communication and collaboration between life sciences experts. Our hope is that richer networks and feedback loops will help accelerate discovery and development of cures for infectious diseases and a wide range of other life sciences challenges.

In deploying risk capital, Biohub will be willing to take better risks on projects that might or might not generate results. The networks will help identify and inform which projects should get venture funding. The tools will help magnify the benefit of deployed risk capital.

With its atmosphere of collaboration and bold experimentation, its emphasis on software-based tools and other high-tech resources, and deploying entrepreneurial scientists, Biohub may precisely help cure disease the way that Silicon Valley has helped deploy software companies.

Michelle and I are excited for this opportunity to support Chan Zuckerberg Initiative in this way, and look forward to see what new technologies Biohub’s researchers develop.

I will also be serving on Biohub’s board, and look forward to working with its co-directors,  Joseph DeRisi, professor and chair of biochemistry and biophysics at UCSF, and Stephen Quake, Stanford professor of bioengineering and of applied physics. Joe and I have known each other for years, and he has a habit of regularly blowing my mind with new good ideas. Stephen and I have shared a path from our days as Stanford undergrads, then Oxford. In discussing Biohub with him, I have learned fascinating and bold approaches to science and entrepreneurship.

It will be exciting to work with both Joe and Stephen in this endeavor, as well as a delight to work with Priscilla and Mark.

Entrepreneurship and technology can amplify and help realize human potential. This is part of what I love about Silicon Valley. It’s awesome to apply this to science, health, and disease.  Michelle and I are honored and excited to be part of Biohub’s journey.

This article was originally published here on November 10, 2016