When you’re the creator of Facebook, you have some spare change lying around. Thankfully, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have pledged to donate the majority of their fortune to charity through their foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Yesterday the couple announced plans to spend $3 billion over the next ten years to “cure disease.”
This influx of cash is huge, but if history has taught us anything, pumping lots of money into scientific research won’t magically make disease go away. Chan, a pediatrician, said the foundation will focus on four major diseases (heart disease, cancer, lung disease, and diabetes) with the goal of bringing together the world’s best scientists to develop new technologies for a cure.
But the government already does this. You can argue that the current system doesn’t incentivize scientists to collaborate (something Zuckerberg and Chan want to improve), but it’s undeniable that the National Institutes of Health already pumps huge amounts of research dollars into studying these diseases. In the last 5 years, the NIH spent $8 billion on heart disease research, $5 billion on diabetes research, and $7 billion on lung disease research. Not to mention, since beginning the “war on cancer” in 1971, the government has spent $105 billion on research.
We have made huge advancements in how we treat these four diseases, but we aren’t anywhere close to finding a cure. We really hope these two prove us wrong, but for now, we’re not convinced this major pledge will have the gigantic effect it promises.