In 2016, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, launched the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative with the modest goal of curing all diseases before the end of the century.
Now, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is setting its sights on neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Over the next five years, it plans to hand out $2.5 million (£1.8 million) in funding to early career scientists in the field of neurodegenerative disease research to jumpstart their work. In addition, it plans to give $1 million (£716,400) over three years to scientists in different fields that want to apply their work to neurodegeneration.
Much of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s funding efforts have focused on basic research, which can often have trouble getting funding despite the critical importance of such research in solving problems of disease further down the road. The same goes for the new neurodegenerative research grants, for which the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is now accepting applications.
While tonnes of research funds and lab time have been poured into understanding neurodegenerative diseases, there are still a whole lot of basic things we don’t understand. When it comes to Alzheimer’s, for example, why it impacts certain regions of the brain more than others, the link between inflammation and the disease, or how exactly brain cells die. Basic research could help shed light on some of those questions—and maybe, one day, even lead to a cure.
An influx of funding is crucial in this field, as drug companies struggle to come up with effective treatments. In January, Pfizer announced it would end its investment into Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s after years of unsuccessful R&D efforts.