Stanford’s Peter Kim Joins the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub ProjectBy Beth Golden, UniversityHerald Reporter
Prior to teaching biochemistry in Stanford, Prof. Kim was president of Merck Research Laboratories. He will lead the Biohub together with Prof. Stephen Quake also from Stanford and Prof. Joseph DeRisi of UCSF.
While the professor initially had his doubts with the project's ambitious goals, Mark Zuckerberg gave him strong and interesting arguments that compelled him to consider the possibility of curing and eliminating diseases by the end of this century.
Work and research at the Biohub
Work in the Biohub will largely utilize technology, engineering and computer science to develop cutting edge technology applicable to life sciences. This effort makes sense in a sense that it will prevent duplication of research initiatives in the Bay Area.
The 2 main projects of the Biohub according to Dr. Kim. One will focus on building a cell atlas and the other on infectious disease. He will be heading the work on the latter.
The cell atlas aims to identify and characterise the different cells of the body, as well as identifying and manipulating each gene in the cell to know how cells behave in healthy and diseased states. Once completed, the cell atlas will be made available to scientists around the world.
Work on infectious disease will focus on 4 key components: detect, respond, treat and prevent.
The Biohub vs. infectious disease
Dr. Kim acknowledges the contributions made by his co-leads in the Biohub when it comes to detecting infectious diseases. He hopes to take it further and more up to speed using advanced next-generation sequencing that can identify the genetic material of infectious agents in the blood. The group is also eager to develop new detection tools that can be used especially in remote areas.
While the infectious diseases component of the Biohub will not get into developing drugs and pursue clinical trials, they hope to contribute in this area by utilizing the cell atlas to understand how infectious agents affect the human cells the provide insight on how to develop potential drugs for the disease.
Ideally, Prof. Kim would want the process of developing antibodies to go faster and hand off the potential therapeutic drug to pharmaceutical companies or the right agency to scale up its production.
The Biohub also wants to promote prevention by helping in the development of vaccines. While their engineers and scientists will not get into the actual development of vaccines per se, they are looking more towards developing technologies that will help in vaccine development and enhancement.
In terms of response, Dr. Kim said they may not be in the frontline to provide the actual cure and there won't be a team waiting, but they hope to be prepared to better respond to any infectious disease problems we might be facing. The idea is to acquire the knowledge and expertise while it has yet to happen and act quickly should it happen.