Last year’s flurry of interest from tech titans has brought a wealth of new funding to translational science that is gaining them status as new and important players in the biotech ecosystem. With a heavy hands-on approach and eye towards disruption, the tech billionaires are carving a new mold in discovery philanthropy.
The entrepreneurs, headlined by Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Napster Inc. co-founder Sean Parker, and Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen, have collectively committed almost $1 billion since the start of last year to create new bodies dedicated to advancing drug discovery and research that can transform medicine.
What sets them apart from traditional philanthropists is not only the size and scope of their funds, but the founders’ drive to accelerate change, bringing the mindset that worked in the tech world to set sky high goals for improving human health.
The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub (CZ Biohub), launched with $600 million by Zuckerberg together with spouse physician Priscilla Chan in September 2016, is the first investment of the $3 billion over ten years the pair pledged with the goal of “curing all diseases in our children’s lifetime.” Parker’s foundation set up the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy with $250 million in April 2016 to “turn cancer into a curable disease,” and Allen dedicated $100 million a month earlier, creating two new Allen Discovery Centers, at Stanford University and Tufts University respectively, to pioneer research in risky areas of research considered crucial by global thought leaders polled by the organization (see “Tech Philanthropy Research Initiatives”).
“It’s very different than the traditional model of bricks-and-mortar operation. That has its rightful place and is important, but this is a grander vision and a bigger experiment,” said Joe DeRisi, co-president of the CZ Biohub and