This is How 47 Scientists Were Selected for the Chan-Zuckerberg Biohub

This is How 47 Scientists Were Selected for the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub February 13, 2017
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative launched in September 2016 by Priscilla Chan, a physician, and her husband, Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg. They pledged $3 billion towards basic science research over the next 10 years. One of the first things they did was pledge $600 million in support of the Chan Zuckerberg (CZ) Biohub, an independent research center that will coordinate activities between scientists at University of California San Francisco, UC Berkeley and Stanford University.

On February 8, the CZ Initiative announced the first cohort of engineers, scientists and technologists. That represents a commitment of more than $50 million. Each of the CZ Biohub Investigators receives a five-year appointment and up to $1.5 million in funding.

A little bit more information was provided on how the Investigators were chosen.

“I would say the one thing we tried to focus on new technologies and the basic science and mechanisms behind the disease,” Stephen Quake, co-president of the Biohub, told Business Insider. “Finding ways to change directions and climb new mountains is really hard to do. We want to take on things that are too risky” that might not be supported by other sources.

More than 700 applicants were screened by an international panel of 60 scientists and engineers. The first cohort is made up of engineers, scientists and technologists.

A cross section of the investigators chosen includes:

1. Jillian Banfield, UC Berkeley, who is “uncovering the vast diversity of microorganisms that depend on co-existing microbial community members for most core metabolic resources and has discovered two major evolutionary radiations, one in bacteria and the other in archaea. She is exploring the medical, industrial, and ecological significance of these newly found microorganisms.”

2. Daniel Fletcher, UC Berkeley. Fletcher’s work focuses on “how cells assemble molecular-scale parts into micron-scale structures necessary for cell motility, cell-cell signaling, and host-pathogen interactions. He 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.”

3. Polly Fordyce, Stanford. Her work focuses on “new biochip technologies for high-throughput functional characterization of proteins to enhance our ability to predict the function of a protein given its amino acid sequence. Her aim is to characterize the properties of more than a thousand proteins, such as enzymes and transcription factors, in a single experiment.”

4. Judith Frydman, Stanford. Frydman has a multidisciplinary approach to study “complex networks mediating protein homeostasis, the maintenance of protein quality. She plans to map the proteostasis network involving more than a thousand proteins, and use this information to develop a new class of therapeutic agents for dengue, Zika, and other viral diseases.”

5. Tanja Kortemme, UCSF. She is “developing a platform technology to computationally engineer novel biological components that convert the sensing of diverse and currently undetectable small molecule signals into cellular responses. She is devising ways of making CRISPR-based gene editing switchable by small molecules.”

6. Hiten Madhani, UCSF. Madhani is focused on “whether cells maintain epigenetic memory, mediated for example by the methylation of cytosine residues in DNA, over evolutionary timescales. He is characterizing extant DNA methyltransferases, particularly those involved in fungal virulence, to trace their evolution and to engineer cellular memory devices.”

Quake told Business Insider, “The standards are incredibly high. These are the best scientists and engineers. We just wanted to set them loose.”

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