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Chan-Zuckergerg Initiative making $250M investment in biomedical research hub with Chicago-area universities

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan – co-founders of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative — are investing $250 million to create a biomedical research facility in Chicago that will tap into the expertise of researchers from Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

In its winning bid for what will be called the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Chicago, the Windy City beat out 58 other proposals from around the country. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced that the state will also provide $25 million to support the project.

Researchers will focus on developing new technologies for studying and measuring human biology using embedded sensors and probes to collect biological signals from human tissues with unprecedented resolution.

“For Chicago to be the winner really tells people this city has a vibrant, cutting-edge life sciences sector,” said Milan Mrksich, vice president for research at Northwestern.

Mrksich said he expects a site for the new facility to be announced in the next few weeks. It will be the second such facility funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative – the other is in San Francisco. The long-term goal is to create a network of biohub facilities that bring together leading research institutions in different regions of the country.

“The Chicago biohub is going to build miniaturized sensors to understand how cells work together and interact within tissues,” Zuckerberg said in a video announcing the investment. “We’re then going to apply these technologies to measure and understand the inflammation in living human tissues because that plays a big part in our overall health. About 50% of all deaths can be attributed to inflammation-related diseases, including cancer, heart disease and dementia, so making progress here is pretty critical.”

Chan added: “If we can instrument these tissues and figure out what things go wrong early, then we can do something about it early.”

Shana O. Kelley, professor of chemistry and biomedical engineering at Northwestern, will serve as the hub’s president.

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

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