Facebook Chief, Chan Charity Buys Artificial Intelligence Startup to Battle Disease

Facebook Chief, Chan Charity Buys Artificial Intelligence Startup to Battle Disease January 27, 2017
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, founded by Priscilla Chan, a physician, and her husband, Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg, just acquired Toronto, Ontario-based artificial intelligence company Meta.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which Chan and Zuckerberg launched with a $3 billion, 10-year pledge, has the ambitious goal of curing, preventing or managing all diseases by the end of the century. One of the Initiative’s first steps was the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, an independent research center that will coordinate activities between scientists at UCSF, UC Berkeley and Stanford University. The Initiative pledged $600 million in support of the Biohub.

Other projects at Biohub include a “Cell Atlas,” which is to develop a map of the functions and locations of every cell in the human body. A second project is the “Infectious Disease Initiatives,” which will develop tools to eliminate infectious diseases.

Meta’s AI technology can read and comprehend scientific papers at a very high speed, providing insights and connections. “We are very excited about what lies ahead,” Sam Molyneux, Meta’s co-founder and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

Meta operates Meta Science, a scientific knowledge network. Formerly known as Sciencescape, Meta Inc. was founded in 2010 by Sam and Amy Molyneux. Prior to Meta, Sam Molyneux studied cancer genomics at the Ontario Cancer Institute at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. Amy Molyneux is the executive vice president and co-founder. Prior to co-founding Meta, she founded Painted Face, a platform that organized online tutorials, articles, and product recommendations for individuals in the makeup and special effects industry. Sam and Amy are brother and sister.

Financial details were not disclosed.

In a letter on the company website, Sam Molyneux writes, “As a venture-backed startup, we built partnerships with dozens of publishers in a copyright aligned model, and created tools now used by researchers at over 1,200 institutes worldwide. In partnership with SRI International (the creators of Siri), we also commercialized an AI technology that can read millions of papers to uncover emerging discoveries years ahead of time. We created neural network systems that look at hundreds of signals within new papers, as they are published, to project their future impact with striking accuracy.”

He goes on to write, “As part of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, we will unite Meta’s capabilities into a single, powerful tool that is available to everyone. We will provide a truly modern way for researchers to understand the state of scientific knowledge and what’s happening, right now.”

Cori Bargmann, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s science president, and Brian Pinkerton, its chief technology officer, posted on the Initiative’s Facebook page, “Meta will help scientists learn from others’ discoveries in real time, find key papers that may have gone unnoticed, or even predict where their field is headed. The potential for this kind of platform is virtually limitless.”

It’s also been pointed out that Mark Zuckerberg recently built an artificial intelligence-imbued software “butler” that he’s named Jarvis, after the AI system in the Iron Man films. It was a personal project that he spent 100 hours on, which is a computer application he can access via phone or computer to control lights, temperature, music, security, appliances and other aspects of the household. It sounds similar to the Amazon Echo, Alexa Smart Home, and the Google Home.

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