May 14, 2021 · 3 min read

Chan Zuckerberg Biohub and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s COVID-19 Response Effort Chronicled in New Michael Lewis Book

“The Premonition: A Pandemic Story” Features “Scientist Superheroes”, Including CZ Biohub Co-President Joe DeRisi, who Raced to Respond to the Pandemic

Joe DeRisi in white lab coat wears a N-95 mask in a COVID-19 lab.
2020 | Co-President of the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Joe DeRisi in the lab | Photograph by CZI
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Editor’s Note: This release has been updated to include the recorded Clubhouse conversation.

On May 4, 2021, Michael Lewis, author of The Big Short and Moneyball, released his new book, The Premonition: A Pandemic Story. The book follows the stories of scientists and doctors, including Joe DeRisi, Co-President of the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub (CZ Biohub), who foresaw the dangers of COVID-19 and raced to respond early as the pandemic unfolded.

Listen to CZI Co-CEO Priscilla Chan, Joe DeRisi, and Michael Lewis’ conversation via Clubhouse below.

For transcript, click here.

In March 2020, when COVID-19 testing capacity was critically low across the United States, DeRisi’s team at CZ Biohub, along with scientists and engineers from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) and over 200 volunteer researchers and graduate students from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), quickly jumped into action by turning empty UCSF lab space adjacent to the CZ Biohub into a CLIA-certified COVID-19 testing facility. The lab, which was built in only eight days, processed over 165,000 tests for California’s Departments of Public Health—creating a critical bridge as California’s testing capacity ramped up, and securing free testing access to many communities who might otherwise not have had access to testing—including undocumented, uninsured, and unsheltered populations, and those in nursing facilities, jails, and prisons.

In addition to providing critical testing support, CZ Biohub and CZI teams provided an additional layer of support for their partners at the California Departments of Public Health. Through a program called the California COVID Tracker, any positive COVID-19 sample could be shipped to CZ Biohub to receive whole genome sequencing, analysis, and interpretation of the data, with an emphasis on making the data actionable for public health response. The sequencing and tracing of these positive tests enabled on-the-ground public health workers to track virus mutations, giving them a better understanding of how the virus was spreading through communities, and where new hot spots were emerging.

On May 10, 2021, it was reported that Universal Pictures had optioned the screen rights to the book, with Phil Lord and Chris Miller signing on to direct the film adaptation. Watch CBS’ 60 Minutes and listen to the Next Question podcast with Katie Couric to learn more about this story.

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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 organization setting the standard for collaborative science, where leaders in science and technology come together to drive discovery and support the bold vision to cure, prevent or manage disease in our children’s lifetime. The CZ Biohub seeks to understand the fundamental mechanisms underlying disease and to develop new technologies that will lead to actionable diagnostics and effective therapies. The CZ Biohub is a regional research endeavor with international reach, where the Bay Area’s leading institutions—the University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University and the University of California, San Francisco—join forces with the CZ Biohub’s innovative internal team to catalyze impact, benefitting people and partnerships around the world. To learn more, visit CZBiohub.org.

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