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A Note from Priscilla Chan

 

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October 2022

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A Note From Priscilla Chan

As we continue to each find our footing in a world with no shortage of surprises and challenges, one thing I’ve loved about 2022 is the sense of rediscovery and moments of joy that keep us going  both personally with news that we’re growing our family, and professionally through the hope and inspiration in our work to build a better future. Schools opened their doors this fall. Many of us are spending more time in person with our friends and colleagues. And here at CZI, we continue the often challenging, but rewarding work of building new things together.

   
Image of Mark and Priscilla at Kempner Institute launch

Building Partnerships to Drive Scientific Progress

When we began our work in science, we knew how important it would be to bring new people and perspectives together. Supporting great science and creativity is one of the most effective ways to advance discoveries. 

 

That’s why Mark and I are thrilled to launch the Kempner Institute for the Study of Artificial and Natural Intelligence in partnership with Harvard University. The Kempner is unlike any other institute: neuroscientists and biologists will work alongside engineers and mathematicians to unlock the nature of intelligence in both natural and artificial systems. We’ll develop a deeper understanding of how the human brain works, and through that, we’ll be able to engineer more intelligent AI. And conversely, by applying AI to human biology, we’ll learn a lot more about who we are, how the brain works, and how to keep it healthy. Mark and I spoke to the Boston Globe about how this new institute will help us gain a better understanding of the nature of intelligence. There’s a lot of exciting implications for scientists who are working to cure, prevent or manage all diseases.   

 

One of the most important horizons in biomedicine is precision health where experts are working to understand how differences in people’s genes, environments, and lifestyles can impact treatment and prevention strategies. To support this work, CZI is partnering with the country’s four Historically Black Medical Colleges to close gaps in genomic research. What these leading institutions learn will help us unlock precision health faster — and ensure that discoveries benefit everyone, especially Black people and other people of color.

 

We’re also supporting another large-scale, collaborative project, led by the UK Biobank, to capture whole-body imaging scans of 60,000 individuals over time. This will create the world’s largest longitudinal imaging dataset and help us better understand cardiovascular diseases, chronic diseases like dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases, and more. The data will give researchers an extraordinarily detailed look at how our bodies change with age, how and why certain diseases arise, and eventually, what we could do to diagnose disease before symptoms start. 

 

All of these important milestones remind us that collaboration is the key to advancing scientific discoveries, which makes the work of scientists like Ivan Marazzi so critical to the future of research. While studying viruses, Ivan made an important discovery about a gene that causes neurodegenerative diseases like ALS, and thus, he pivoted his career to study ALS and rare childhood diseases in partnership with other researchers from diverse fields. Another grantee, Michael Raymond, had no background in science but founded the Polyamigos: a group of scientists who are studying an ultra-rare disease called Snyder-Robinson Syndrome that threatened Michael’s son’s life. We’re proud to support their work, and if you read their stories, you’ll see why.

 

I also want to congratulate our Head of Science Steve Quake on being named a Citation Laureate in physics by Clarivate for his contributions to science, which helped lay the foundation for microfluidic tools used in single-cell biology.

   

Addressing Climate Change by Removing Carbon

Climate change is another area where innovation and collaboration are making a difference. Some of the most promising solutions are coming from an industry that produces 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions: concrete. We’re supporting CarbonBuilt’s work to help concrete manufacturing drive large-scale emission reductions. Watch this video with entrepreneur Maya Penn and CarbonBuilt’s Conor Cooper to learn more about CarbonBuilt’s climate-friendly formula for concrete.

   
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Supporting Students and Teachers with New Tools

When it comes to education, we know that students’ academic success is deeply intertwined with their wellbeing. That is the reason CZI builds tools like Along, which is a free tool that helps build meaningful connections between teachers and their students so that every student feels seen and known. We’re excited to share that Along was named a 2022 ‘Best Tool for Back to School’ by Common Sense Education, and earned the iKeepSafe FERPA and COPPA privacy badge

 

We’ve partnered with NBC to explore how schools are helping students build connections — with their teachers, and with one another — that will help them thrive in and out of  the classroom. Valor Collegiate Academy, a school with a pioneering approach to support students and teachers, was featured on the TODAY Show to share the impact that it is having on their community. 

 

Sandra Liu Huang, our Head of Education at CZI, recently discussed student well-being in a conversation with Michael B. Horn, author and education expert. Together, they outlined strategies for how we can best equip teachers with research-backed tools and resources that help them center students’ well-being in support of academic achievement and success.  

 

In addition to the tools we build ourselves, we’re investing in promising technologies built by others. Vivian Wu, Managing Partner of CZI Ventures, recently went on the Brazil at Silicon Valley podcast to discuss how our impact investments serve as a tip of the spear in supporting innovation at scale globally. Vivian highlighted how our impact investing strategy has evolved alongside CZI’s focus in education, health and climate, and through the pandemic, with a particular focus on impact opportunities in Brazil. 

 

In all of these efforts, we’re guided by our belief in staying close to the work. We work directly with the people who are most impacted by broken systems, and put them at the center of designing solutions.

 

Julio Chow-Gamboa is someone who embodies this approach. Before he became a Senior Manager for Educator Capacity at CZI, he was an Oakland teacher who worked with immigrant and refugee students. He’s particularly proud of CZI’s teacher well-being portfolio, which supports teachers — especially teachers of color — throughout their career and personal development.

   
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Solutions for the Community, by the Community

Our Community Fund is another area where we seek to engage those closest to the work in decisions on strategy and funding. This year, our Community Fund review panel is composed of 34 San Mateo County community members and CZI staff, whose feedback and review of grant applications supported grantmaking decisions. We are excited to announce the 2023 Community Fund cohort in mid-November. 

 

Here in the Bay Area, the issue we see and hear most about from our community is the persistent lack of affordable housing. Ruby Bolaria Shifrin, our Head of Housing Affordability, recently spoke about that challenge with Secretary Julian Castro and Sawyer Hawkett on their podcast, Our America. Ruby outlined the racial and economic inequities in our housing system — and how, through innovative solutions like community land trusts, we can close those gaps. 

 

I also want to take a moment to shine a light on CJ Callen, who leads much of this work as our Community Leadership and Capacity Building Director. CJ says her journey to CZI was unexpected: she grew up in a housing project in Brooklyn, went to Stanford, thought she would go into law — but left that path to become a youth worker, a policy advocate, and eventually, a nonprofit chief executive. 

 

Now she’s shaping our strategy to build a more equitable California. “The project was a source of joy, and I am prioritizing joy in my work,” she says. “I’m hoping to bring joy to others, too.”

   
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Building Tech for a Better Future

CZI takes pride in being a new kind of philanthropy: one that builds technology alongside collaborative partnerships and community-driven solutions. Our full-stack technology teams make a lot of our progress possible.

 

For example: Warenga Maina is a senior software engineer who supports the Summit Learning platform. One of Summit’s goals is to help educators to manage all their competing responsibilities, and to make the best decisions for both students and teachers. To that end, Warenga is building dashboards that make it easy to see what’s happening in the classroom, set goals, and create action plans. 

 

Annie Ku is a software engineer who’s making a big difference on our security engineering team. As she puts it, “Our Central Technology team is helping CZI be good stewards of its resources.” 

 

Women lead a lot of CZI’s work in tech, and as an organization, we’re committed to supporting their careers. We recently invited several participants in our Women in Tech Employee Resource Group to talk about the paths they’ve followed and what they’ve learned. Their stories are really remarkable, and well worth a read.

 

We’re always expanding our incredible Technology teams — check out our current CZI career opportunities.

   

Powered by Our People

As CZI continues to grow, we’re dedicating resources toward advancing racial equity. This year, we awarded approximately $17 million to organizations advancing racial equity, part of more than $53 million awarded in racial equity grants since 2021. We’re extremely proud of the work CZIers have done to advance racial equity internally, from piloting new trainings, to selecting amazing grantees, to leading rich dialogue through our Employee Resource Groups.

 

We also want to help people already part of the CZI family do their best work, and to get the most out of their experience. To provide our grantees with additional support, our Movement & Capacity Building (MCB) team offers weekly trainings, 1-1 coaching sessions, and insights on community engagement best practices.

 

However you’ve found your way to the CZI community, we deeply appreciate you being here. Thank you for everything you’re doing to build a more inclusive, just, and healthy future for everyone.

 

With care,

Image of Priscilla Chan
Priscilla Chan's signature

CO-FOUNDER AND CO-CEO

CHAN ZUCKERBERG INITIATIVE

 

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Preview screenshot of video about CarbonBuilt

Did you know that 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the concrete industry? Concrete is part of our daily lives, but we don't often think about its impact on our planet.

Efforts to reduce carbon emissions — by investing in energy efficiency and phasing out fossil fuels in favor of solar and wind power — are key to addressing climate change. But to avoid the worst effects of climate change, we must also remove carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere.


And that's where CarbonBuilt comes in.


We’re supporting CarbonBuilt’s work to help concrete manufacturing drive large-scale emission reductions. Watch to learn more about their climate-friendly formula for concrete.

Tech at CZI
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At the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, we collaborate with students, teachers, researchers and community leaders to reimagine education. We equip teachers with the research, tools and partners they need to center students’ well-being in support of academic achievement and success.  

 

At our core, we are builders. We build tools to help teachers reach children where they are, enhance learning, and foster stronger relationships with their students. Together with Gradient Learning, we design educational experiences and tools, such as Summit Learning and Along, to help teachers connect with students and tailor learning experiences to individual student needs.

EdTech tool: Along
EdTech Tool: Summit Learning

Explore these stories to learn more about how we build enabling technology for educators and students.

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Research shows that strong relationships can help restore students’ readiness to learn and support student well-being. Meet Stacey Perez, Principal at Classical Academy High School, who shares how Along enabled her to strengthen the connections with her students.

 

Watch: Building Strong Teacher-Student Relationships With the Along Connection Builder Tool

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Meet the CZI Education technology team working on the Summit Learning platform to continuously improve educator and student experiences.

 

Read more: How CZI Builds Platform Enhancements to Deliver Up-to-Date Teaching Resources

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A Note from Priscilla Chan

This summer, we’re taking every opportunity to celebrate our people and our communities. Last month was Immigrant Heritage Month, and we celebrated all the ways immigrants make this country strong. We also celebrated Juneteenth and Pride, and many CZIers shared moments that made them proud. We celebrate ourselves as individuals because those strengths allow us to be greater than the sum of our parts and power us to do our part in building a better future for everyone. Despite the many challenges of this time, we know we can make progress together for our communities, our families and future generations by staying focused on our work. 


Big news for us this summer is welcoming Steve Quake as CZI’s new Head of Science. I look forward to working with him as he leads a shared and comprehensive strategy across all of our work in science — including our science and science technology programs, the Biohub and Biohub Networks, and our new Imaging Institute. I cannot thank Cori Bargmann enough for her leadership over the past six years and am grateful that she’ll stay at CZI as “Distinguished Fellow and Head of Science Emerita” until the end of the year, before joining our Scientific Advisory Board.

   
Image of Michael Chen

Building Tech For a Better Future

Building new technology is core to accelerating progress in science and education — and it’s one of the things that sets CZI apart from many other philanthropies. Our dedicated technology teams build tools with scientists, educators, and communities.

 

On our education tech team, senior software engineer Michael Chen is developing enhanced features in Along, a teacher-student connection builder designed to draw out meaningful, one-on-one reflections from students. One new feature enables audio-based student reflections, which provide even more choice to students about how they express themselves and connect.

   

Understanding Health and Disease Mysteries

At CZI, we drive real-world impact by bringing together experts across disciplines and giving them the tools they need to advance entire fields. One example of this in our science work is the groundbreaking Tabula Sapiens, an open-source atlas mapping more than 400 cell types in the human body, which has already helped scientists speed breakthroughs in cancer therapy and more — and was featured on the cover of Science Magazine.

 

Jonah Cool, our Single-Cell Biology Program Officer, wrote about how Tabula and other major research breakthroughs are part of a string of discoveries made using single-cell tools — showing us the field’s promise for increasing our understanding of health and disease. We’re already learning so much from the Human Cell Atlas, a particularly exciting collaborative, open-source, single-cell research effort we’re supporting, which is well on its way to mapping all 37 trillion cells in the human body.

 

As you might imagine, researchers using these technologies are generating extremely high volumes of data — and just sorting through it is a major challenge. Chan Zuckerberg CELL by GENE Discover helps scientists browse single-cell data collections, explore gene expression, or download extensive datasets, while Chan Zuckerberg CELL by GENE Annotate expedites collaborative analysis of complex data by experts around the world.

 

We’re supporting new developments in imaging technology, too. We announced the founding scientific team of our new Imaging Institute: David Agard, Bridget Carragher, and Clint Potter will help launch this center and bring together the experts necessary to develop breakthrough biological imaging systems that will push the boundaries of what we can see and measure. Our imaging Program Officer, Stephani Otte, gave an incredible talk at the Aspen Ideas Festival to share the kinds of discoveries our grantees are making and how the Imaging Institute will build tech to visualize the biological underpinnings of health and disease. You can also read her blog post about why breakthroughs in biomedicine start with new imaging tools. 

 

For more on exciting imaging developments, follow along with a day in the life of Laura Waller — imaging scientist, mom, and founder of UC Berkeley’s Computational Imaging Lab, where she’s building microscopes that help neuroscientists understand the brain.


Additionally, Tania Simoncelli, our VP of Science in Society, also spoke at Aspen on the power of patient driven-research and participated in a discussion panel following the screening of a CZI-supported documentary, No Ordinary Campaign, about patient advocate Brian Wallach’s ALS journey and the movement he created to rebuild a healthcare system that puts patients first.

   
Screenshot of video showing panel discussion participants

Fostering Connection in Classrooms Around the World

I am inspired by how teachers and students have continued to navigate the challenges that COVID amplified. I recently had the opportunity to hear how valuable strong teacher-student connections have been during this period in our lives. You can watch the panel discussion at the National Charter Schools Conference to learn more about how Along, the teacher-student connection builder, is helping teachers ensure that every student feels seen and known.

 

As Dakarai Aarons and Julio Chow-Gamboa recently announced, we’re also supporting teachers and students with a $3 million grant to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). We’re honored to help NBPTS continue their core work of advancing the quality of teaching and learning for educators across the United States, including providing certifications for more than 128,000 teachers who met their high standards for what accomplished teachers should know. 

 

A key way to build connection in the classroom is to support educators of color. Research shows that all students — especially students of color — benefit from having diverse teachers and leaders. We’re proud to support many organizations that train and support diverse educators and promote teacher well-being, including FuelEd, The Teaching Well, and Profound Gentlemen. 


We’re also proud to witness incredible companies helping students around the world get the most out of their education. Through CZI Ventures, we support NewGlobe, an innovative educational system producing exceptional learning results among students in previously underserved Kenyan communities.

   
Image of CZI Carbon Dioxide Removal Explainer

Scaling Carbon Dioxide Removal Technologies

to Address the Climate Crisis

Summer days can be a reminder of the heat extremes and droughts that are now likely to happen more often because of climate change. Scientists have noted that cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that are warming our planet, while absolutely critical, is no longer sufficient for slowing climate change — in tandem, large amounts of carbon dioxide must also be removed from our atmosphere. 


That’s why CZI supports organizations developing innovative and equitable approaches to mitigating climate change, including carbon dioxide removal. This interactive explainer highlights seven promising carbon removal technologies that have the potential to help us reach our climate goals.

   

Supporting Local Leaders Building Equity

in Their Communities

In June, we accepted applications for our 2023 Community Fund RFA to support community leaders and nonprofit organizations that are increasing access to the building blocks of social and economic well-being in San Mateo County. We’re excited to announce our grantees this fall and support their critical work.

 

One of the community leaders on the frontlines of this work is Fernanda De Velasco, Membership and Fundraising Associate at the Housing Leadership Council (HLC) of San Mateo County. HLC was founded by local leaders to address the housing crisis, and it works closely with the communities it serves — including families like Fernanda’s, who couldn’t find good, affordable housing when they moved from Mexico to the Bay Area. Read more about Fernanda’s story and her typical day at HLC.

 

We’re grateful for leaders like Fernanda, and all of our partners and team members who are building a better future for their communities. 

   

And we’re grateful for you, always. Thank you for being an integral member of our CZI community and for championing our work and our builders as we all strive for that more inclusive, just, and healthier future. On behalf of our entire team, I wish you a safe and sunny rest of your summer.

 

With care,

Image of Priscilla Chan
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CO-FOUNDER AND CO-CEO

CHAN ZUCKERBERG INITIATIVE

 

 

 

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