Mark Zuckerberg and his wife pledge three billion dollars to end disease by the end of the century

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Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan are making a significant commitment of three billion US dollars (£2.31 billion) over the next 10 years to help eradicate ALL disease by the end of this century.

They acknowledge that this might sound unrealistic, but point to how far medicine and science have come in the last century - with vaccines, statins for heart disease, chemotherapy, and so on - following millennia with little progress.

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The goal, which they are unlikely to live to see accomplished, is to "cure, prevent or manage all disease" in the next 80 or so years.

Zuckerberg stated that he and Chan have spent the past two years speaking to scientists and other experts to plan the endeavour.

The money will be used to accelerate basic scientific research, including the creation of research tools (from software to hardware to yet undiscovered techniques) which they hope will ultimately lead to scientific breakthroughs.

"So if you even just assume that we'll be able to continue to make progress on that same trajectory, then that implies that by the end of this century we will have been able to solve most of these types of things," Zuckerberg said in an interview.

He emphasised "that this isn't something where we just read a book and decided we're going to do".

Through their philanthropic organisation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the commitment includes 600 million dollars (£462 million) to fund a new research centre in San Francisco.

The couple decided last year to donate 99% of their wealth, which at the time was valued at more than 45 billion dollars (£34.7 billion), to the Chan Zuckerberg philanthropic ventures.

Zuckerberg and Chan hope that their effort will inspire other far-reaching efforts and collaboration in science, medicine and engineering, so that basic research is no longer relegated to the margins.

(Mark Schiefelbein/AP)
(Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

"We spend 50 times more on health care treating people who are sick than we spend on science research (to cure) diseases so that people don't get sick in the first place," Zuckerberg said.

Eric Lander, a professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said he has had some 20 conversations with Zuckerberg and Chan over the past year about the initiative. He called the couple's goal "the right kind of goal for thinking about that kind of time frame".

"It's not that no one is doing this today, but out of all the money that our society spends on science funding, probably not enough is going towards tool development," Zuckerberg said.

Zuckerberg and Chan stressed that they believe that their goal can be accomplished - if not in their lifetime, then in their child's lifetime.