Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan pledge $3bn to end all disease

Investment will go towards helping scientists develop new ways to tackle illness

Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, smile as they rehearse for a speech in San Francisco | Photo: PA Images

Mark Zuckerberg and his wife have pledged $3bn (€2.7bn) towards an ambitious plan to rid the world of disease.

The Facebook founder and his wife, paediatrician Priscilla Chan, said the goal was to "cure, prevent or manage all disease within our children's lifetime".

Investment will go towards research into cancer and infectious disease as well as heart and neurological disease, the couple said.

The plans were revealed during an event in San Francisco yesterday for their philanthropic group, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

Dr Chan said they had launched the initiative following the birth of daughter Max last year, with the goal of dramatically improving the lives of all other children in her generation.

She recalled experiences of telling parents their child had an incurable disease or could not be revived, and said she hoped to spare parents the pain she had seen while delivering difficult news in her role as a pediatrician. 

She explained: "In those moments and in many others we're at the limit of what we understand about the human body and disease, the science behind medicine, the limit of our ability to alleviate suffering. We want to push back that boundary."

Her role as a doctor, she said, had made her determined to work with scientists to help save lives.

'We can do better than that'

Zuckerberg said the funding would bring scientists and engineers together, build tools and technology needed to help fight disease and also grow the movement to fund science.

The tech billionaire said 50 times more is spent on treating people who are ill than finding cures.

"We can do better than that," he said.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative mission statement states: "We want every child to grow up in a better world.

"Our hopes for the future centre on two ideas: advancing human potential and promoting equality.

"We'll focus first on personalised learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities.

"We will make long-term investments over 25, 50 or even 100 years because our greatest challenges require time to solve."

The couple announced in December 2015 that they planned to give away 99% of their Facebook shares to fund good causes.