question. The foundation has a distinct
advantage—Mark Zuckerberg, one of the
most successful engineers in the world.
Bargmann said between Zuckerberg
and their location in Silicon Valley, CZI is
able to recruit software engineers who are
excited by the mission of working on scientific problems. The in-house engineering
team is already partnering with scientists
to create a data infrastructure and platform that will be able to handle the data
deluge of the Human Cell Atlas project.
With big data, however, the work is
never complete. Data and knowledge
sharing is still one of Bargmann’s top,
most immediate priorities for CZI.
In January 2017, CZI acquired a
Canadian-based company named Meta,
which had developed an artificial intelligence (AI) platform to help scientists
read, understand and prioritize the
thousands of scientific papers that are
published each day.
In biomedicine alone, around 4,000
scientific papers are published each and
every day—and most of them go unread
by scientists. Meta is a tool that will help
fill the gap between volume of research
and a scientist’s knowledge. It uses artificial intelligence to analyze and connect
insights across millions of papers. AI
seeks out the most relevant or impactful
studies in a scientific area the moment
they are published, and finds patterns in
the literature on a scale no human being
could accomplish alone.
“We think this is a great example of
speeding everyone’s science by making
them aware—helping them understand
and interpret and act on the scientific literature. And it’s helping scientists share
what they know more quickly with each
other,” Bargmann said.
Once Meta is ready, CZI will offer its
tools and features for free to all researchers. This remarkable access is in
line with the CZI’s overall goals, and the
Initiative’s commitment to open-access.
For example, all data from research performed at the Biohub will be published
in open-access channels and journals,
and the Biohub facility is open-access
itself, meaning researchers outside of
the three universities are welcome to
visit and use the high-tech equipment.
In April 2017, Bargmann announced
that CZI would be collaborating with
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (New
York) to help support its online platform,
bioRxiv, a free service that enables life
science researchers to share drafts
of their papers before they appear in
journals. Preprint repositories like this
can complement and even augment the
peer-review process by making scientific
results available instantly to be discussed, shared and improved upon by
the entire community before publication.
Along with funding for current operations, CZI’s support will enable Cold
Spring Harbor Laboratory to hire additional staff to help scale up bioRxiv, and
allow the conversion of author-submitted
content files to machine-readable formats.
“[bioRxiv] was being run by two guys in
a basement in Cold Spring Harbor Lab-
oratory. We really wanted to express our
enthusiasm for this willingness of scien-
tists to share their knowledge with each
other earlier, and supporting bioRxiv is a
way of doing that,” Bargmann said. “We
want to work with the leaders of the field,
we want to find people who are doing
imaginative things wherever they are, and
that includes finding people like bioRxiv
and telling them ‘good job,’ or building
out our own systems, or partnering with
others to make that kind of progress.”
As Bargmann rounds out her first year
at the helm of CZI science, there’s a
lot to be proud of in the short time. The
Biohub’s first class of investigators is
rolling, with research projects ranging
from a $1 foldable microscope to target-
ed therapies for autoimmune disorders.
And the Initiative is in the process of
selecting scientists for its Collabora-
tive Computational Tools team for the
Human Cell Atlas project.
It’s going to be long journey to the
end of the century, to a time when—if
Bargmann and CZI have anything to
say about it—all human diseases will be
cured, managed or prevented. Unfortunately, Bargmann won’t be around in
2100 to see the fruits of her labor, but
that doesn’t matter much to her.
“The best thing about science is the
companionship of other scientists and
learning from them. Sometimes I feel
like my own work is just the ticket to the
party,” she said. “It’s exciting to have this
long timeframe and this ability to add to
the existing system. There’s a lot of very
successful things in science right now,
but there’s always room to do more,
always room to try something new, and I
just feel incredibly fortunate to have this
- Michelle Taylor, Editor-in-Chief,
;Cori Bargmann speaks
about her vision as the
president of science for
the Chan Zuckerberg
Initiative when it was
September 21, 2016.
Photo courtesy of Chan
;Bargmann conducted her neurological
research on the roundworm species
Caenorhabditis elegans since they are a
suited model to the human brain.