47 investigators from UC Berkeley, Stanford, and UCSF awarded $50 million by the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub

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By: Joanne Chan and Amie Zhangada

The Chan Zuckerberg (CZ) Biohub Investigator Program has awarded $50 million to its first cohort of forty-seven scientists, engineers, and innovators from UC Berkeley, Stanford, and UCSF. An international panel of sixty scientists reviewed 700 applicants and selected 19 investigators from Stanford, 15 from UCSF, and 13 from UC Berkeley. Each investigator will receive up to $1.5 million in funding to advance life sciences research ― an opportunity rarely seen in research grants.

From printing organ-like structures to parasite detection, investigators tackle a wide range of initiatives which further the Biohub’s bold goal of “curing, preventing or managing all diseases in our children’s lifetime”. By broadening their scope of research subjects, the Biohub hopes to foster new insights in the sphere of science. The co-president of the Biohub, Joe DeRisi, expresses excitement for stimulation and innovation in research: “if you go back 100 years from right now and look at the rate of change and what has happened and you extrapolate into the future, you cannot predict the kinds of innovation and inventions and quantum leaps in our ability to cure disease or manage or prevent it.”

The research focuses on four main areas: new detection technologies, treatments, infection prevention, and approaches to rapid responses from emerging threats. Many of these have implications for the future of global health.

At UC Berkeley, for example, Markita Landry is focusing on deep brain imaging of dopamine to understand psychiatric disorders. She will develop a new nanosensor technology and near infrared imaging platforms to visualize neurotransmitters in the living brain. Laura Waller hopes to develop inexpensive microscopes to image previously inaccessible information. She is currently working on 3D imaging in scattering media in the brain to understand neural activity. Dan Fletcher plans to launch a new effort to map the topography and spatial organization of cell-cell surfaces, starting with macrophages in their interactions with tumor cells.

 Alex Marson MD, PhD from UCSF aims to develop targeted therapies for autoimmune disorders, immunodeficiency, and infectious diseases. Koyle Roybal, PhD studies T-cells to devise new ways to control immune function in cancer therapy. Bryan Greenhouse addresses fundamental questions about the transmission of malaria to better target and evaluate interventions to control the disease by combining field studies in infected areas with advanced molecular genetic studies in the laboratory. 

Manu Prakash, PhD, from Stanford University, focuses on measurement tools to field diagnostics of infectious diseases in extreme resource-poor areas. He aims to create new cost-efficient platforms for the diagnosis and surveillance of diseases like schistosomiasis, leishmaniasis, and malaria. Carlos Bustamante, also from Stanford, is making the transition from population genetics to a new area, the integration and analysis of massive data coming from consumer, health care, and financial sources. 

All investigators will meet periodically in a shared Biohub building in San Francisco and will release their manuscripts online to maintain transparency. In addition to the investigator program, the Biohub is also launching both the Infectious Disease Initiative to discover “new ways to fight dengue fever and Zika outbreaks” and the Cell Atlas, “a global project to map the cells in the human body in hopes it unlocks certain causes of disease and potentially leads to new therapies.”

Click here to learn more about the Investigator program and its investigators.