The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is opening a research center in New York City dedicated to developing new techniques for early disease detection and treatment. CZ Biohub NY, as it’s being called, will work with Columbia, Rockefeller and Yale universities to learn how immune cells detect and attack specific diseases, and eventually use this insight to engineer cells that could do the job more precisely.
The charitable organization headed by Priscilla Chan and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has committed $250 million to the effort, according to STAT, alongside investments of $10 million each from the State of New York and New York City. In a blog post announcing CZ Biohub NY, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative said it will start by focusing on cancers and other diseases that often go undetected until they’ve advanced to the point of being difficult or impossible to treat. That includes “ovarian and pancreatic cancers; neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s; as well as aging and autoimmunity,” CZI says.
CZ BioHub NY aims to get to the bottom of how immune cells work, down to their ability to spot tissue-specific changes that can be among the earliest indications of a disease’s onset. Then, its researchers hope to be able to create cells that can sniff out these abnormalities even earlier than they’re currently able, and be sent to the disease sites directly for more effective treatment. These bioengineered immune cells would “scout, report, and repair damage to our cells before it leads to serious illnesses,” said Chan.
The New York hub is the latest in CZI’s growing network of research institutions, and joins three others that have been established in San Francisco, Chicago, and Redwood City. All have pledged to break ground on their respective scientific goals within a time frame of 10-15 years. Now, according to STAT, the New York biohub just needs to secure a site to work out of.