Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan announced Wednesday they would fund $3 billion to scientific research led by Cori Bargmann. Bargmann is “one of the world’s most respected neuroscientists and geneticists” and will work on a cell atlas to cure and prevent all the main diseases by the end of the century.
Zuckerberg and Chan introduced the new president of Chan-Zuckerberg Science, Dr. Cori Bargmann and made public they will give her $3 billion to fund efforts to cure all disease by 2100. From San Francisco, Cori Bargmann was introduced as one of the most respected scientists of the world and a “legitimate rock star.”
“Great efforts take great leaders, and today we are pleased to welcome Cori Bargmann,” said Chan at Wednesday’s conference.
Bargmann has a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Georgia and a Ph.D. in cancer biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Bargmann has focused her research on Caenorhabditis Elegans, which is a tiny, deaf and blind roundworm with just 302. Studying the worm Bargmann has been able to study how genes, the environment, and experiences interact to create animal’s behavior, including humans.
The $3 billion are meant to fund different projects for the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, which includes creating a cell atlas to then discovered which cells cause certain diseases.
Bargmann explained that the Chan-Zuckerberg science plan is to develop the technologies to make a reality the cell book. The Initiative aims to identify every cell type in the human body, their location, their numbers and their molecular components.
She compares this project to the Human Genome Project in which scientists from around the globe mapped the genetic blueprint that creates human beings. Bargmann said that just like in the Human Genome Project, the cell atlas would require a significant number of partners from different organizations, multiple countries, and extensive collaboration.
The University of California, San Francisco, Stanford, and the University of California are already part of the project.
According to the new President of Chan-Zuckerberg Science, collaboration and technology are essential in solving several problems for the next generation. Bargmann´s view is shared by both Chan and Zuckerberg since the couple also believes technology and networking are keys to innovation.
About 80 years will pass before the world can see what the $3 billion are going to accomplish
Bargmann job is to create and strategy and shape bonds from academia, biotech, and engineering, because, as Bargmann herself said, the cell Atlas is an engineering problem.
The president of Chan-Zuckerberg science will have to work in close collaboration with Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative’s science board to fulfill the foundation’s goals: to“cure, prevent and manage all major diseases by the end of the century.”
Bargmann explained why it would take so much time to find what causes all the main disease in human and for doing so, she used an example: The study of viruses.
The neuroscientists stated that between the 1970s and 1980s, scientists focus on studying viruses and how they infected human cells and animals. They concentrated on how the virus caused the disease.
Cori Bargmann continued and narrated that the first retrovirus ever studied was the rous sarcoma, a virus that only affected chickens. It is natural to think that rous sarcoma has nothing to do with humans, but when AIDS was first identified, which is also a retrovirus, the studies regarding rous sarcoma allowed a rapid progress in developing treatments for the disease.
Studying all cells and making an atlas will take time, but Bargmann hopes her research will serve as a foundation for understanding some of the main issues of science.
Dr. Cori Bargmann teaches and leads a prestigious lab at Rockefeller and recently co-chaired the National Institutes of Health committee that is behind the Brain Research through Advancing Innovate Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.