Story at a glance

  • Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, are leveraging their charitable nonprofits to help expedite coronavirus testing.
  • Zuckerberg’s foundations will help fund FDA-approved diagnostics machines to reduce testing backlog.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan are launching a task force through two of their philanthropic groups to increase coronavirus testing around the Bay Area, the company announced Tuesday.

The Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) will partner with the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Stanford University to help “quadruple UCSF’s COVID-19 testing and diagnostics capacities by funding the acquisition of two state-of-the-art clinical diagnostic machines,” per the company’s press release. This group is dubbed the “COVID-19 Task Force.”

“As the coronavirus epidemic continues to grow, our ability to rapidly test and diagnose cases is critical,” Joe DeRisi, co-president of Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, said in the statement. “Procuring these new diagnostic machines will have a significant impact on our ability to respond to the outbreak in a more streamlined way.”

Two diagnostic machines were purchased by Zuckerberg’s company and are pending approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to test for COVID-19. Once approved, the machines will be used at UCSF to support and enhance testing for potential COVID-19 cases. 

Per current public health requirements, testing will be restricted to symptomatic patients with testing orders from doctors and health care professionals. 

Since the task force is composed of multiple institutions, it is designed to promote collaboration and help expedite testing in the Bay Area. It aims to expand the test requests at UCSF into neighboring Stanford to prevent backlog and overcapacity within a single testing facility and laboratory.

“Science moves better — and faster — when we work together and contribute with our greatest strengths,” CZI Head of Science, Cori Bargmann, said in the press release. “CZI and the Biohub are grateful to partner with UCSF and Stanford to put the right technology into the right hands, with the hope of making an immediate impact.”

The testing machines and equipment are currently being installed at UCSF.

CZI is the philanthropic organization founded and run by Dr. Chan and Zuckerberg that helps fund research and development for technology-based solutions to social problems like eradicating disease and improving education. Its sibling organization, the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, is another charitable research group  dedicated to conducting research that solves health problems. It has higher educational partnerships with University of California, Berkeley, UCSF and Stanford. 

Other large companies have pledged to assist with the coronavirus outbreak and help mitigate the spread. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced Tuesday that it teamed up with Wellcome and Mastercard Impact Fund to contribute about $125 million toward COVID-19 testing and treatment. They named this collective the “COVID-19 Therapeutic Accelerator.”

According to The Verge, the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub is slated to begin increasing testing capabilities by March 16 in the Bay Area.

Published on Mar 11, 2020