Power couple Mark Zuckerberg and Dr. Priscilla Chan have given $10 million to the University of California at San Francisco's Institute of Computational Health Sciences to fund big-data projects.
The donation will be used to fund new faculty hires and informatics projects, including an effort to unite 15 million patients' health-records data from across five University of California medical campuses into a single database—a project that reflects the trend in healthcare toward analyzing data for population health and imaging insights.
At the helm of the institute is Dr. Atul Butte, who was just named the Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg Distinguished Professor at the university. His work involves what he's termed "data recycling," a big-data research tactic that involves mining publicly available data for health and medical information rather than relying on the more conventional approach to clinical research of recruiting new patients to study.
"The data are an incredible resource for UC hospitals to improve the quality of care we deliver throughout California," Butte said in a statement.
Butte and his lab colleagues already have found, by looking through existing data, a drug first approved to kill parasitic worms could be used to treat liver cancer. They've also come up with a way to mine data to predict outcomes of cancer treatments. The approach is both clinically and financially promising, with the cost dwarfing that of more traditional drug development.
The $10 million gift is not associated with Chan Zuckerberg Science, the offshoot of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Facebook that CEO Zuckerberg and pediatrician (and UCSF alum) Chan established to put $3 billion into disease eradication.