CZI Annual Letter 2022
Earlier this year, the two of us were getting ready for CZI’s first in-person, org-wide meeting since 2019. It felt a bit like being at the top of a roller coaster: We were thrilled and we were nervous. It was hard to imagine what it would be like to be in the same space after so much time apart.
Then, the big day happened — and it was magic. Our colleagues, old and new, reaffirmed an important truth about our partners and about CZI: We are a community of builders.
This community builds many things, from technologies to partnerships. We all share a deep motivation to create, pilot and iterate together — both because there’s a lot of joy in the process and because building collaboratively will help us unlock a better future.
We envision a world where every disease can be cured, prevented or managed. Where every teacher is equipped to center student well-being in support of their academic success. Where everyone in our home state of California has a place to call home and has the support to shape their life and community.
There’s no set path to achieving these goals. The only way forward is together — volleying ideas back and forth, trying them out, learning from our mistakes, and making breakthroughs that crack open the next stage of the puzzle.
Doing this work well means opening ourselves up to surprise. Many of our tools — such as Along and Chan Zuckerberg CELL by GENE (CZ CELLxGENE) — began as very different ideas. It was only when we got them into the world, and started building on them with our partners, that we were able to make the tools even more impactful.
It’s precisely in these moments of surprise that our community demonstrates its collective strength. By staying agile in the short term, we drive progress over the long term.
The years ahead will bring more surprises and setbacks. But there will also be at least one constant: the deep satisfaction of working alongside our partners and colleagues to solve the next great challenge — and to build toward the next breakthrough.
We partner with scientists, researchers and engineers to do the science that can’t be done in conventional environments.
Launching Harvard’s Kempner Institute
In September, we joined renowned leaders in science and technology to launch the Kempner Institute for the Study of Natural and Artificial Intelligence at Harvard University.
Its mission is to reveal the basic mechanisms of intelligence in natural and artificial systems, and the connections between the two. What we learn about the brain should help us engineer more intelligent AI. And if we apply AI to human biology, we can learn more about who we are, how the brain functions, and how to keep it healthy.
We want to train the next generation of leaders who will go on to do great things.
Creating a Biohub Network To Solve Grand Scientific Challenges
We’re also expanding the CZ Biohub Network. Its goal is to scale up a powerful new model for research that we pioneered at the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub in San Francisco — which has driven huge advances in how we track infectious disease, and how we understand basic human biology.
The Biohub Network will help leading institutions in other regions apply this model to new challenges and explore the next frontiers in health and medicine.
Creating Technologies To See the World Differently
One of the best ways to accelerate science is to give researchers new ways to look at the world. That’s why CZI is inventing the tools to see what’s happening in the human body, at unprecedented scale, in real time.
Much of that work will happen at the CZ Institute for Advanced Biological Imaging, where we will image individual human cells and the proteins within them. Scientists and engineers will design powerful new technologies, make them available to researchers worldwide, and help those researchers see how our cells and tissues really work.
Our science technology team builds and supports open source software that can help advance breakthroughs in biomedicine.
Helping Scientists Analyze Complex Datasets
More and more, progress in science depends on computation. Researchers need software to analyze massive datasets — and to share their findings with other teams.
We’re funding napari, a community-built, open source platform that helps scientists do just that. CZI has supported napari for years. In November, we announced funding for developers who are building the next generation of tools for napari — and supporting researchers as they visualize human biology in new ways.
Unlocking the Mysteries of the Cell
A person is composed of more than 37 trillion cells. These are the fundamental units of life, but there is still much to learn about how they function and interact.
CZ CELLxGENE is a tool we built to help figure that out. In single-cell studies, biologists use it to analyze how cells express their genes, visualize the data and share their findings. One group used the tool to compare the heart cells of healthy people with those of cardiomyopathy patients — and reveal how genetic mutations can contribute to heart failure.
Mapping Millions of Cells
Researchers are using the CZ CELLxGENE tool to map every type of cell in the human body. In May, more than 160 scientists published an amazing contribution to that goal in Science. It’s an ongoing project called the Tabula Sapiens, which maps the gene expression of cells across 24 tissues and organs collected from single donors.
The Tabula Sapiens was led by the CZ Biohub and created in collaboration with CZI. It brings us one step closer to a future where we know how individual cells contribute to disease — and where we can target those cells with highly specific diagnostics and treatments.
CZI funds groundbreaking research across different disciplines to accelerate the pace of scientific progress.
Unlocking Precision Health, Faster and for Everyone
In September, we partnered with the nation’s four Historically Black Medical Colleges to launch a new program called Accelerate Precision Health, which supports students and faculty who are doing cutting-edge genomics research.
Together, these leaders are working to unlock a new future for medicine — where your care is specifically tailored to your genes and your life. And they’re making sure that future includes everyone.
Supporting the Next Generation of Scientists
We also created a program to invest in extraordinary researchers who are building a more inclusive scientific community. They’re driving breakthroughs in their laboratories, and they’re mentoring a generation of young scientists who bring an important, differentiated and underrepresented perspective to biomedicine.
This investment — made in partnership with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine — will accelerate discovery by helping more people contribute to it.
countries where CZI funds researchers
frontiers of imaging tech projects
software plugins on the napari hub to support researchers
science diversity leaders supported
essential open source projects supported
tissues and organs mapped via Tabula Sapiens
meetings and workshops to support the scientific community
We’re working to equip teachers with the research, tools and partners they need to center students’ well-being in support of academic achievement and success in life.
Unlocking Literacy for All Students
As any caregiver or teacher knows, becoming a reader unlocks a world of possibility for a child and helps build confidence and motivation. That’s why our partner, Reach Every Reader, focuses on early literacy. This year they released a fast, fun screening tool that helps teachers and caregivers understand each student’s progress toward literacy, then tailor their teaching and support.
Centering Belonging To Drive Academic Success
Students are whole people with unique strengths and aspirations. The more we see them that way, the better we can support their success in school and in life.
That’s why we support Equal Opportunity Schools as part of our work to build research. They partner with high schools to survey students about their strengths and aspirations. Schools then use the survey data to design outreach plans to get students engaged — and help them find their path into advanced academic coursework.
These partnerships are great examples of our whole-child approach to education. They are leveraging research to better serve students and help drive systems change.
Building a Strong Teacher Workforce
Learning depends on so many different factors. But one thing we know is that when teachers succeed, students succeed. That’s why it’s so important we build a strong, sustainable and inclusive educational workforce. We should give every teacher every opportunity to develop their craft.
This year, CZI invested $3 million in the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to expand professional development opportunities. We also committed $4 million to organizations that support teacher well-being to help teachers continue to do the work they love. One grantee, FuelEd, focuses on how relationships drive learning for teachers, as well as students. They create professional learning communities where educators explore the science of relationships and develop the skills to build connections in schools.
Our technology team partners with educators and researchers to build tools that drive student engagement, meaningful learning, and stronger teacher-student connections.
Helping Educators Tailor Learning to Each Student
The Summit Learning program supports schools all over the country. It provides educators with customizable curriculum, professional development, coaching and tech tools — which CZI builds in partnership with researchers and educators at Gradient Learning. Together, these resources help students master key subjects and develop the skills and habits of lifelong learners.
In May, two Summit Learning schools received Gradient Learning’s Rise Award, a national honor that recognizes their commitment to improving teaching and learning. Meanwhile, nearly 1,000 educators attended the first in-person Summit Learning Summer Training since 2019 — and left with fresh insights for the fall.
Building Teacher-Student Connections
When the pandemic hit, CZI built a tool called Along, a first-of-its-kind teacher-student connection builder that facilitates meaningful, one-on-one conversations that are foundational for student engagement and academic success. Now, Along helps bridge the connection gap between teachers and students within the challenging realities of today’s classrooms.
We are thrilled to share that Along received a special mention in TIME magazine’s Best Inventions of 2022. Along was also named a “Best Tool for Back to School” by Common Sense Education and earned the iKeepSafe FERPA and COPPA privacy badges. We’re excited to see how the tool is assisting teachers in getting to know each student as a whole person — helping them find motivation and achieve academic success.
Supporting Innovative Tech To Address Climate Change
This was our first full year exploring how CZI can best accelerate progress to address climate change. One thing we learned is that carbon dioxide removal (CDR) is an essential piece of the climate solution, along with drastically reducing emissions and decarbonizing existing industries.
That’s why we announced $44 million in new funding for companies and researchers that are developing and scaling CDR technologies. One of them is CarbonBuilt, which created a climate-friendly formula for concrete — a material that accounts for 8 to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions today.
Making Investments With Global Impact
CZI is also helping to build up innovative, global companies. We invest in businesses that are creating scalable solutions to urgent challenges then reinvest any profit back into our philanthropy to further our impact.
One new partner working at the intersection of economic opportunity and climate impact, Apollo Agriculture, raised $40 million to get financing, insurance and other critical resources to farmers in Africa. Other portfolio companies — in education, climate change and healthcare — were widely recognized for developing creative solutions to longstanding barriers to opportunity.
the Bay Area
The San Francisco Bay Area is such a special place. If you want to talk about a community of builders, this is it. We’ve always worked hard to support our neighbors — and to do our part to build an equitable, inclusive and just California.
Investing in Those Closest to the Work
In practice, this means expanding access to housing, healthcare, education and job skills — the basic building blocks of social and economic well-being.
We do that through our Community Fund, which has provided $26 million to 175 local organizations in support of responsive grantmaking, capacity building, collaborative partnerships and more. We continue to learn from the participatory grantmaking framework — a funding approach we adopted for the Community Fund that engages directly impacted community members as part of the grant funding decision-making process.
Creating Inclusive Spaces
We know that building community often means providing inclusive spaces for people to gather. That’s the focus of the CZI Community Space, a free meeting and event space for local organizations and community members in San Mateo County. This year alone, 1,677 guests have visited this space. We also partnered with the Redwood City Parks and Arts Foundation to launch the CZI Community Space Arts Program. It leverages the CZI Community Space to promote education, awareness and community understanding, and lifts up local artists.
We’re advancing solutions that make housing more affordable, so people from all backgrounds and income levels can live, work and thrive in California.
Building Strong Partnerships With the Housing Community
This year, we strengthened our partnerships with several organizations including Partnership for the Bay’s Future (PBF). PBF aims to invest at least $500 million in Bay Area housing by the end of 2025. The initial results are encouraging: In addition to protecting 73,000 renters during the pandemic, PBF has produced and preserved nearly 4,000 homes — 90% of which are affordable for families who have lower incomes.
Another partner, Terner Housing Innovation Lab, supports ventures to make homes and communities more affordable, accessible and sustainable. To date, these ventures have helped improve outcomes for more than 60,000 people looking to find housing, pay a mortgage or build credit.
Reshaping California’s Housing Conversation
Centering the voices of people who are closest to the work and who know the challenges best is a key part of all of our efforts. In communities across California, the chorus remains the same: We need more affordable housing.
More specifically, advocates have called for a more effective and unifying framework to talk about housing — one that recognizes the variety of Californians’ values, helps reshape the statewide conversation, and builds greater public will for housing reform. In response to our partners, we researched a new narrative approach to housing anchored by a new vision for the California Dream.
Ensuring Advancements Reflect Everyone
Embedding a racial equity lens across our work is critical to achieving our vision of building a better future for everyone — including people who are Black, Indigenous, Latina/o/x and other people of color. That commitment was deepened this year as we partnered with educators, medical colleges and community organizations to integrate racial equity investments across CZI’s focus areas.
These efforts include our work with the USC Dornsife Equity Research Institute, which helps drive change by providing actionable data and analysis used by community organizations and advocates advancing racial equity. It also includes a new partnership with the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services and University of Michigan researcher Sue Hammoud to engage and educate local Arab communities to increase community member research participation. By increasing diversity in research, we can accelerate the pace of breakthroughs in science and ensure those findings lead to a healthier future for everyone.
CZI by the Numbers
Finally, here’s the big picture of CZI grants and investments.
Shows grant amounts committed from December 2015 through October 2022. View our grantmaking database for more information. Housing affordability grants are shown in community. Climate includes $22.5M+ in strategic program investments. Other CZI funding not captured in the chart includes nearly $300M in venture investments and more than $10.46M in employee giving which includes funding by CZI’s Live the Mission benefit. Grants across categories are counted in each category and once in our total commitment.
to our community of builders.