- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his pediatrician wife, Priscilla Chan, have sold 29 million Facebook shares to raise $5 billion for an ambitious biomedical-research program called the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI).
- Related to the CZI is the Chan-Zuckerberg Biohub, which employs top-notch scientists from Stanford University, UC Berkeley, and UC San Francisco.
- Researchers including a Biohub investigator are studying a wirelessimplantable brain device, called the “Wand” for short, in primates.
- Published on New Year’s Eve, their first study details how the Wand records, stimulates, and disrupts movement in real time.
Mark Zuckerberg has sold close to 30 million shares of Facebook to fund an ambitious biomedical-research project, called the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, with a goal of curing all disease within a generation.
A less publicized initiative related to the $5 billion program includes work on brain-machine interfaces, devices that essentially translate thoughts into commands. One recent project is a wireless brain implant that can record, stimulate, and disrupt the movement of a monkey in real time.
In a paper published in the highly cited scientific journal Nature on New Year’s Eve, researchers detail a wireless brain device implanted in a primate that records, stimulates, and modifies its brain activity in real time, sensing a normal movement and stopping it immediately. One of those researchers is an investigator with the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, a nonprofit medical research group related to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
Scientists refer to the interference as “therapy” because it is designed to be used to treat diseases like epilepsy or Parkinson’s by stopping a seizure or other disruptive motion as it starts.
“Our device is able to monitor the brain while it’s providing the therapy, so you know exactly what’s happening,” Rikky Muller, a coauthor of the new study, told Business Insider. A professor of computer science and engineering at UC Berkeley, Muller is also a CZ Biohub investigator.
The applications of brain-machine interfaces are far-reaching: While some researchers focus on using them to help assist people with spinal-cord injuries or other illnesses that affect movement, others aim to see them transform how everyone interacts with laptops and smartphones. Both a division at Facebook, formerly called Building 8, as well as an Elon Musk-founded company, called Neuralink, have said they are working on the latter.