2018 Annual Letter

Highlights from CZI’s Work in Science

In just a few years, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has made some extraordinary progress with scientific partners around the world in working towards our ambitious goal of supporting basic science and technology that will make it possible to cure, prevent, or manage all diseases by the end of the century.

In CZI’s 2018 Annual Letter, our co-founders Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg highlight some of these advances. We’re grateful to all of our partners — at research institutes, organizations, and companies around the world for their work to help shape a more just, equitable, healthy future.

Below are a few of our biggest highlights from our work in science this year:

Launching the Neurodegeneration Challenge Network

We announced the Neurodegeneration Challenge Network to support new scientific collaborations aimed at fighting diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS.

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CZI’s Ben Barres Early Career Acceleration Awards are named for the late Ben Barres (pictured), an American neurobiologist and fierce advocate for young scientists, women, mentorship, and diversity in science.

The causes of most neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS are only partly understood, and there are still no effective therapies to cure, prevent, or even treat most of these disorders.

To fight neurodegenerative disorders, we need a new approach — one that brings together diverse people and ideas, supports them with new tools and resources, and encourages close and open collaboration between these groups. We’re investing in the fight against these diseases through CZI’s Neurodegeneration Challenge Network, our first effort to support bold new ideas and collaborations in the field.

Learn more about our grant recipients.

Investing in Open Collaborative Science & Tools

We pledged over $13 million to open science, investing in ASAPbio, Protocols.io, and our new Imaging Scientists Program.

This year, we doubled down on our commitment to open science and building and supporting collaborative tools.

To encourage new partnerships, our new Imaging Scientists Program launched with a pledge of $12.5M to bring more engineering expertise to biomedical imaging. To support open science, we awarded grants to ASAPbio, which builds support for preprints, or draft scientific papers before they appear in journals; and Protocols.io, an open-access resource that allows researchers to discover and share scientific methods.

Collaborating to Support the Human Cell Atlas

We launched an open call for grants to support groups of scientists around the world working to map all cell types for the Human Cell Atlas.

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Graduate students, postdocs, and staff scientists participate in a poster session during a meeting to share progress on CZI-funded pilot projects supporting the global Human Cell Atlas effort.

The Human Cell Atlas aims to be a freely available reference map of all cell types in the healthy human body as a resource for studies of health and disease. As part of this global collaboration, we’re working to bring scientists, computational biologists, and software engineers together via meetings, hackathons, and RFAs so they can collaborate and make progress faster. In September, we also launched a new RFA called Seed Networks — its aim is to support networks of scientists, engineers, and physicians working together on diverse tissues and organs.

Fostering Groundbreaking Medical Research

The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub invested $13.7 million in groundbreaking biomedical research.

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Carly Cheung, scientist in the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub’s Protein Sciences group, shows Sandra Chipuka and Ernestine Dada Johnson, Emerging Leaders from the TechWomen program, tools used in the BSL-1 lab at the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub in San Francisco.

The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, an independent nonprofit research center that brings together physicians, scientists, and engineers from the University of California, Berkeley, the University of California, San Francisco, and Stanford University, published and supported groundbreaking collaborative research in 2018.

The first research out of the Cell Atlas Initiative was an open-source mouse atlas of 100,000 cells called Tabula Muris. It was published in Nature on the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub’s second anniversary. In addition, a $13.7 million investment in cutting-edge biomedical research.

Developing New Tools to Detect Disease

We teamed up with the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub to launch IDseq — a new tool that aims to help fight diseases in real-time.

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IDseq has already demonstrated its ability to detect disease in the field, identifying the mosquito-borne viral chikungunya disease in the spinal fluid of patients at the largest pediatric hospital in Bangladesh.

IDseq is an open-source, cloud-based tool designed to detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks around the world by identifying disease-causing pathogens from metagenomic sequencing data. We’re teaming up with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub to expand this pilot by providing next-generation genome sequencers and IDseq training for labs and clinics throughout the world.

Read a story from Rebecca Egger, a CZI product manager working on the IDseq tool, to learn about how DNA sequencing helped solve her family’s medical mystery.

Looking Forward

It’s been a great year, and we’re looking forward to continuing to advance science in the new year.

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Supporting the science and technology that will make it possible to cure, prevent, or manage all diseases by the end of the century.

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