I’m optimistic we can,” Mark Zuckerberg, Founder & CEO of Facebook said, in an announcement by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative on Wednesday.
Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan went live on Facebook to announce it’s next initiative, which is to have a cure for all diseases by the end of the Century.
Read what Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook:
When our daughter was born, we wrote a letter about the hope she gave us for the future. It’s a hope I know so many of us feel – that we can make a better future for our children and generations to come. I’m an engineer, and I think this hope is part of the engineering mindset.
It’s the belief that you can take any system and make it much better – whether it’s code, hardware, biology, a company, an education system, a government – anything. We look for ways to bring engineering to social change. That’s what we’ve done at Facebook to build a community of more than 1.7 billion people.
That’s what we’ve done with Internet.org to help local entrepreneurs connect more than 30 million people to the internet. That’s what we’re doing with personalized learning to help teachers bring these tools to more than 100 schools. And that’s how we hope to help scientists as well.
Priscilla and I have spent the last few years talking to dozens of top scientists and experts who believe it’s possible to cure, prevent or manage all diseases by the end of this century.
That doesn’t mean no one will ever get sick, but it does that mean that we’ll get sick a lot less, and that when we do, we’ll always be able to identify and treat the problem, or at least manage it as a non-harmful condition.
Medicine has only been a modern science for about a century, and we’ve already made incredible progress. Think about that. For thousands of years, we made very little progress. Then we started applying the scientific method to investigating diseases and progress really took off.
Since then we’ve eradicated smallpox and are close to eradicating polio. We can prevent meningitis, measles and many forms of influenza with vaccines. We discovered antibiotics to treat potentially deadly infections like tuberculosis and pneumonia.
We produced insulin to manage diabetes, statins to reduce heart disease, and chemotherapies to treat cancer. We’ve reduced smoking through public education. We’ve even found ways to reduce life-threatening diseases like HIV to conditions we can manage.
Over the last century, life expectancy has increased by 1/4 year each year, driven by advances in science and public health. If this trend only continues, then at the end of the century our *average* life expectancy will be around 100.
This trend implies we will have cured the diseases that prevent most people from reaching that age today. As technology accelerates, I’m optimistic we can do even better.
Today, most people die from four kinds of diseases: heart disease (10.8 million, 19.2%), cancer (8.2 million, 14.6%), infectious disease (8.5 million, 15.1%) and neurological disease like stroke (6.8 million, 12.1%). Of the rest, almost half are due to accidents and injuries (5.8 million, 10.3%) or otherwise unrelated to disease (3.1 million, 5.5%).
This gives us an idea of where to focus to start. I don’t want to oversimplify the problem. Each category has many different conditions and areas to study. For example, every cancer is a different disease.
It is unlikely each category can be addresses by a single breakthrough. But for each category, there are common strategies for addressing those diseases and common tools and technology we can develop to better understand and fight them more effectively