The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub has selected its first cohort of investigators. The nonprofit research institute in San Francisco, California, part of Facebook Co-Founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan’s plan to cure, prevent, or manage all diseases, announced today that 47 faculty at three nearby research universities will get no-strings-attached awards to delve into risky new directions.
Biohub is the first concrete piece of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s foray into science, launched last September with a commitment of $3 billion over 10 years from Zuckerberg and Chan, a pediatrician. The institute brings together the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF); UC Berkeley; and Stanford University to focus initially on two projects, a cell atlas and infectious diseases. The launch of Biohub’s investigator program means each scientist and engineer chosen will receive an average of up to $300,000 per year for 5 years for life sciences research.
Biohub co-president and UCSF infectious disease specialist Joe DeRisi says the goal is not to supplement what researchers are already doing, but to allow them to explore “blue-sky” areas. Although some awards went to already-well-funded faculty, many winners are young scientists striving to get grants, he says. (Biohub awards are roughly equivalent in size to an R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health [NIH].) The initiative is also funding technology developers who struggle to obtain NIH funding because they’re not doing hypothesis-driven research, he says.