Giving Compass' Take:

• Harvey Fineberg interviews Priscilla Chan about the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative's ambition to cure diseases by funding medical science research. 

• How can funders effectively partner to accelerate medical science research? 

• Learn how to find and fund scientific research

Harvey Fineberg: What model do you think works best: combining deep computation expertise with deep scientific expertise, or training people to bridge the gap?

Priscilla Chan: Having people who can interface between science and technology is key, and we now have a team of computational biologists that acts as a bridge between scientists and engineers. We hire from a diverse pool of candidates that includes both academia and industry. One of our computational biologists was most recently working at a company that recommends jeans and clothes and sends them to customers. When he joined CZI, he was excited to combine the engineering skills he learned at a consumer-facing company with his academic background in computational biology to help work towards CZI’s ambitious mission to cure, prevent or manage all disease.

HF: CZI spends $3 billion on scientific research over 10 years. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), however, invests 10 times as much every year. Given the scale of government investment, what tools or capacities does private philanthropy have that government cannot muster easily?

PC: We can’t do this alone; we need government investment in science, and CZI’s grantmaking is only a drop in the bucket. While we are intentionally thoughtful, we also have the ability to implement solutions faster. For instance, we recently issued an open call for applications in the field of neurodegeneration, and completed the funding process in a year.

Another example is a mouse cell atlas spearheaded by Chan Zuckerberg Biohub co-president Dr. Stephen Quake. He worked with a number of scientists to build the first complete copy of a mouse cell atlas in only four months, and then published the research on the preprint server bioRXivshortly after. We are in a unique position to invest in high-risk, high-reward research, and I think we shouldn’t be batting a thousand.

Read the full interview with Priscilla Chan about science philanthropy by Harvey Fineberg at Medium.