About a month ago I wrote about a new collaboration between three Bay Area universities called the Biohub. It was the first science investment by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and is intended to leverage the combined strengths of Stanford, the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of California, Berkeley.
I recently spoke with biochemist Peter S. Kim, PhD, who will be heading up an infectious disease project within the Biohub. During that conversation I asked Kim what he thought of the initiative's stated mission of investing in science, technology and human ingenuity to help cure, prevent or manage all diseases by the end of the century. He told me:
The mission is, on the surface, completely outrageous. Cure, prevent or manage every disease by the end of the century? But in his presentation Mark [Zuckerberg] made the point that all the advances we take for granted in medicine and the enormous increase in the average human lifespan have occurred in only 100 years. Then he says, 'So what do you expect to happen by the end of the century?' This argument took me from incredulous to 'I don’t know, maybe it could happen.'
The second point he made is that we spend 50 times more money treating disease than we do on finding ways to cure or prevent disease. If you are a company and you spent 50 times more dealing with problems than dealing with the future, that’s a failure. That was pretty insightful. I give Mark and Priscilla [Chan] a ton of credit for coming out with arguments that are unique and compelling.