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Zuckerberg and Chan aim to tackle all disease by 2100

Imagine a world without disease. Most of you are probably picturing a utopian society where everything is butterflies and rainbows and we all sit around singing kumbaya. A word without disease could look a lot like our world today. Last Wednesday BBC reported that Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Precilla Chan, announced that they are contributing $3 billion to cure, prevent or manage all disease by the end of the century. This is a rather ambitious project considering the amount of illness and variation of quality of life in the world. Zuckerberg outlined three guiding principles for the investment. The first is to bring together scientists and engineers because he believes that the current state of research is fueled by competition instead of progress. The second principle is to build tools and technology to advance research. And the third is to grow the movement to fund more science around the world. Within that $3 billion Chan and Zuckeberg have already pledged $600 million to the production of a research center called the Biohub that will work on two major projects. One being a Cell Atlas map that will help researchers understand the different cells that control major organs. The other is an Infectious Disease Initiative that will help come up with new tests and vaccines for newer diseases such as HIV, Ebola, and Zika. Although this Zuckerberg-Chan plan seems to be unimaginable and unattainable, the couple emphasizes that their timeline is a long one and that their goal is not likely to be achieved for decades. You may recall that last year, following the birth of their first child, the couple also pledged to give away 99% of their shares in Facebook to fund ‘good causes’. These announcements come during a time where many technological philanthropists are contributing to similar ‘good causes’. Starting with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which was founded in 2000, leading up to the passed year with contributions from Napster co-founder Sean Parker to cancer research, and Gate’s partner, Paul Allen to cell-biology research. Some would say that these wealthy philanthropists’ should be looked to for such ambitious projects because they can afford the risks. This ties into what we discussed in class about a company’s influence and power. What do you think? Do affluent businessmen and women have an obligation to society to fix its problems simply because they have the money and power to do so?

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