Stanford, UC, Facebook CEO's Biohub To Grant $50 Million For Researchers' 'Riskiest Ideas'By Emily Marks, UniversityHerald Reporter
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, physician Priscilla Chan, recently created a biomedical research initiative named the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub in partnership with Stanford University as well as the University of California's Berkeley and San Francisco campuses. This time, they announced that they have awarded a $50 million grant for the "riskiest ideas" of forty-seven investigators.
Nature reported that the program has awarded its first grants to scientists for their study on various topics including genomics of obscure microbes as well as a memory-retrieval device. Forty-seven investigators will receive about $1.5 million each in the next five years, totaling over $50 million as budget.
Biohub co-leader Stephen Quake, a bioengineer at Stanford, said that they told researchers to give them their "riskiest ideas." Over 750 investigators from the three universities submitted proposals that aim to study fundamental biological processes to develop disease-related technologies.
Quake admitted that he and the other grant reviewers checked the researchers' track records. They also favored those who had bold ideas that lacked preliminary evidence. He revealed that they wanted to "harvest" the "creative anarchy" in Silicon Valley.
According to BuzzFeed News, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan expects the Biohub to be used by scientists to work with other researchers on interdisciplinary projects and develop research tools together. Speaking to the publication, Biohub co-president Joseph DeRisi described the couple as "avid consumers of science" who "enjoy learning new things and knowing what the cutting edge of research is all about."
The complete list of researchers in the Investigator Program is found in Biohub's official website. It includes UC Berkeley researchers Aaron Streets, who develops tools to accurately analyze single cells, and Jill Banfield, who focuses on the study of environmental microorganisms.
Manu Prakash, from Stanford University, is also part of the program. He is known for creating a folding paper telescope that costs $1 only.
Recently, Prakash has created "an ultra-low-cost, human-powered centrifuge." It can separate blood into its individual components in just a minute and a half.
The device is created from 20 cents of paper, twine and plastic. Deemed as a "paperfuge," it can spin at speeds of 125,000 rpm and can exert centrifugal forces of 30,000 Gs.