Dec 7, 2021 · 11 min read

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Announces 10-Year Effort to Develop Science and Technologies to Measure Human Biology in Action

CZI Will Build Tools, Launch Institutes, and Support Research to Observe and Measure Human Biology in New Ways — Accelerating Progress Toward Curing, Preventing, or Managing All Disease

Watch: Celebrating 5 Years of CZI Science
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Today, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) co-founders and co-CEOs Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg announced that they are doubling down on their commitment to accelerating biomedical science and advancing human health with an ambitious new effort to observe, measure, and analyze any biological process throughout the human body — across spatial scales and in real time.

This year marks the fifth anniversary of the launch of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s science program with the mission to support the science and technology that will make it possible to cure, prevent, or manage all disease by the end of the century. As the organization looks forward, it is taking the lessons from these first five years toward a defined vision for the next decade. Over the next 10 years, CZI Science will focus on developing new research, institutes, and technologies to measure and observe human biology in new ways to help deepen our understanding of human health and disease.

Beyond expanding support for its science and science technology programs, CZI is supporting the creation of new scientific institutes to take on grand scientific challenges in areas such as imaging, artificial intelligence, infectious disease research, cell biology, and neuroscience while building new technologies and tools to tackle them. This approach is modeled in part by the success of one of CZI’s first big scientific bets, the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub (CZ Biohub), a unique research institution that brings together scientists and engineers from Stanford University; University of California, Berkeley; and University of California, San Francisco, to take on large-scale scientific challenges in areas like cell biology and infectious disease research.

CZI’s new commitments will support the creation or expansion of:

  • The Chan Zuckerberg Institute for Advanced Biomedical Imaging;
  • The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Network;
  • Operations for the San Francisco-based Chan Zuckerberg Biohub through 2031; and
  • The Kempner Institute for the Study of Natural and Artificial Intelligence at Harvard University.

“Biomedical science and technology development hold tremendous promise to advance human health and treat disease,” said CZI Co-Founder and Co-CEO Dr. Priscilla Chan. “Working as partners with scientists, patients, and open source communities, we’ve learned so much during these first five years of our science journey about where we can have the best impact in accelerating biomedicine. Now we’re ready to begin our next chapter. In addition to expanding our support for our core scientific programs in neurodegeneration, single-cell biology, imaging, open science, rare disease research, and infectious disease research, over the next 10 years, CZI Science will focus on building new tools and technologies to measure human biology in action to benefit human health.”

“To measure the human body in action with spatial accuracy, biochemical specificity, and dynamic precision, we are going to need new instruments and analytical tools,” said CZI Co-Founder and Co-CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “How can the application of artificial intelligence to biological imaging create new insights into how cells and tissues function? How do interactions between cancer cells, surrounding tissues, and the immune system promote or prevent tumor growth? How do the brain and the body communicate to regulate physiological and emotional states? Working with the scientific community, we will create the teams, build the instruments, and validate the uses that make these and other breakthroughs possible.”

“From exploring how open science, collaboration, and technology can advance science; to supporting interdisciplinary research collaborations across scientific domains and career stages; to giving grants in a variety of areas, CZI Science and its network of world-class researchers and technologists have made tremendous progress in accelerating biomedicine over the past five years,” said CZI Head of Science Cori Bargmann. “We’ve been astonished by the fact that methods in single-cell biology, microscopy, and artificial intelligence that were considered impossible just five years ago are now routine. Human biology is incredibly vast, and there’s much more to discover in the next 10 years. This work has yielded great insight and laid the foundation for what we plan to do going forward. In the next decade, we will focus on creating a dynamic, integrated view of biology in health and disease and observe the human body in action.”

“Advances in biomedicine are being fueled by new technologies — from advancements in imaging hardware to software technologies that enable scientists to better visualize and analyze scientific data as well as collaborate and share research,” said CZI Vice President of Engineering and Head of Science Technology Phil Smoot. “At CZI, we are building software tools with and for scientists, funding cutting-edge technologies with clear biomedical applications, and making technologies accessible faster so that scientists have the most impactful tools to do their best work. These new investments will be another key way for researchers to incubate and scale transformative tools for the benefit of the scientific community.” 

More detail on this next chapter of CZI’s commitment to advancing human health is as follows:

Chan Zuckerberg Institute for Advanced Biomedical Imaging
Biological systems constantly communicate as tissues, cells, and proteins interact. Without visibility into these processes, we’re limited in understanding the human body and how to prevent disease. CZI is creating a new advanced imaging institute to push forward revolutionary new imaging technologies through high-risk, high-reward projects over the next 15 years. This new institute will bring together experts from multiple disciplines: physicists, scientists, software and hardware engineers, and application specialists. With expertise in artificial intelligence, physics, biomedical engineering, and biomedical applications, researchers will collaboratively develop breakthrough biomedical imaging systems centered around imaging grand challenges that push the boundaries of what we can see and measure.

These imaging grand challenges will be determined with input from the broader scientific community and span the full scale of resolutions and lengths, from protein and molecular, through to cellular and organ, to whole organisms, with a focus on viewing biology systems in their native context. As an extension of the CZI Imaging program, the Institute will ensure broad access to new technologies through a visiting scientists program and dissemination of tools to benefit the whole imaging field. 

Unlocking the ability to directly observe and analyze any biological processes across spatial scales, in real time, throughout the human body will require the development of revolutionary new multimodal imaging technology that combines the latest breakthroughs across physics, engineering, and mathematics,” said CZI Science Imaging Program Officer Stephani Otte. “The Chan Zuckerberg Institute for Advanced Biomedical Imaging is an exciting new effort to bring together experts from across these domains and disciplines to develop breakthrough technologies with the potential to transform the imaging field, and get them into the hands of biomedical researchers on a much faster timeline than is currently possible.”

Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Network
In 2016, the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub was created to enable CZI’s science mission of curing, preventing, or managing all disease by the end of the century. The CZ Biohub’s goal is to better understand the fundamental mechanisms underlying disease and develop new technologies that could lead to more actionable diagnostics and effective therapies. CZ Biohub, in close partnership with CZI scientists and engineers, has already driven incredible progress, from accelerating California’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Bay Area and statewide; to developing technologies to identify emerging disease outbreaks around the world; to making major contributions to global efforts to build whole-organism molecular cell atlases of humans, mice, lemurs, flies, and other organisms; to developing tools to better visualize and map protein interactions within cells.

Building off the successes and lessons learned from the CZ Biohub, CZI is announcing the formation of a new CZ Biohub Network, in which new Biohubs will be created to bring together leading scientific and technology institutions with the goal of pursuing grand scientific challenges on 15-year time horizons. Beginning in early 2022, universities and institutions will be invited to submit their grand challenge ideas through an open Request For Proposals process. Successful proposals will be announced in late 2022, with the first Biohub network breaking ground in 2023. Steve Quake will leave his current position as CZ Biohub co-president to lead the new CZ Biohub Network.

“A central premise for the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub was to break down the silos that limit collaboration between great institutions, and to support creative, innovative, and often risky research ideas,” said incoming CZ Biohub Network President Steve Quake. “We’re five years into this experiment, and the results tell us that we’re onto something. The CZ Biohub Network will scale this model to other regions so we can pursue the world’s toughest and most important scientific challenges. I’m honored to lead this new chapter in our work and grateful to Joe DeRisi and Cori Bargmann for their partnership over the past five years.”

Chan Zuckerberg Biohub’s operations extended through 2031
Today, CZI is announcing that the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub’s operations will be extended through 2031, allowing the organization to continue pursuing the sort of large and complex scientific challenges that may otherwise not be pursued by traditional institutions. As part of this extension, CZ Biohub co-president Joe DeRisi will assume sole leadership of the San Francisco-based institute. 

“The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub is a catalyst and discovery engine that enables scientists from different universities and different disciplines to come together and pursue their riskiest and most innovative ideas,” said CZ Biohub president Joe DeRisi. “The last five years have exceeded our expectations and proven that this collaborative model of organizing projects works. What are the next steps at CZ Biohub? Motivated in no small part by the pandemic, CZ Biohub will double down on efforts in both infectious disease and basic science by creating new technology platforms, foundational datasets, and pipelines for cell biology at scale, while also expanding our pathogen detection efforts domestically and abroad. I’m excited to continue building upon the incredible productivity the Biohub has achieved, and am grateful to Steve Quake, who made so much of this possible. I can’t wait to see where the next decade of progress will lead us.” 

Kempner Institute for the Study of Natural and Artificial Intelligence
The Kempner Institute for the Study of Natural and Artificial Intelligence at Harvard University will seek to better understand the basis of intelligence in natural and artificial systems. Its bold premise is that the two fields are intimately interconnected: the next generation of artificial intelligence requires using principles that our brains use for fast, flexible natural reasoning, and understanding how our brains compute and reason requires theories developed for AI. The Kempner Institute will study AI systems, including artificial neural networks, to develop both principled theories and a practical understanding of how they operate and learn, and it will also focus on research topics that include learning and memory, perception and sensation, brain function, and meta plasticity.

The Institute will recruit and train future generations of researchers from undergraduates and graduate students to post-docs and faculty — actively recruiting from underrepresented groups at every stage of the pipeline — to study intelligence from biological, cognitive, engineering, and computational perspectives.

“Advances in AI are occurring at an astonishing pace,” said Bernardo Sabatini, one of the Institute’s co-directors and the Alice and Rodman W. Moorhead III Professor of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. “At the same time, our understanding of the complex neuronal networks of our brains is exploding due to new technologies and methodologies. This new program will bring the fields together by, for example, borrowing features from biological brains to make smarter AI and using computational theories from AI to explain how our brains work.” 

“The new program will convene experts from computer science, applied mathematics, neuroscience, cognitive science, statistics, and mathematics toward radically advancing our understanding of both AI and the brain,” added Sham Kakade, Institute co-director and Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science and of Statistics at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “Through a unique mix of interdisciplinary research, educational opportunities, and large-scale computational resources, the institute has the potential for a transformative impact on the future of science and technology.”

Join CZI for a virtual symposium on December 7 at 10 a.m. Pacific Time to celebrate our work in science over the past five years and to look ahead to what’s next, and read more about how CZI is building a better future for everyone in our 2021 Annual Letter.

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About the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative was founded in 2015 to help solve some of society’s toughest challenges — from eradicating disease and improving education, to addressing the needs of our local communities. Our mission is to build a more inclusive, just, and healthy future for everyone. For more information, please visit www.chanzuckerberg.com.

About the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub

The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub is a nonprofit research center that pursues large scientific challenges and brings together physicians, scientists, and engineers from Stanford University; the University of California, Berkeley; and the University of California, San Francisco. The CZ Biohub employs some of the brightest and boldest engineers, data scientists, and biomedical researchers who together with our partner universities seek to understand the fundamental mechanisms underlying disease and develop new technologies that will lead to actionable diagnostics and effective therapies. To learn more, visit CZBiohub.org.

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