It’s certainly a wildly ambitious goal but is it even possible? In this exclusive opinion piece, global affairs commentator Caleb Stephen, examines some of the major reasons why such a scheme is not even feasible.
According to The Guardian, Facebook tycoon Mark Zuckerberg and his paediatrician wife, Priscilla Chan, have laid out plans to invest $3 billion dollars over the next decade with the significant goal of tackling all diseases.
“Can we cure, prevent or manage all disease by the end of this century?” asked Zuckerberg, speaking in front of a packed lecture theater at the University of California, San Francisco’s (UCSF) William J Rutter Center.
So apparently it seems that the very arrogant Zuckerberg once again is playing god here offering up $3 billion dollars of his own money to wipe the planet free of all diseases. Bless his heart but there ain’t no cure for ALL the diseases in this world, certainly not in this century and certainly not with $3 billion dollars.
The couple even admits that “it’s a big goal”, but when you look at the facts, that’s actually a very big understatement.
For a start, $3 billion dollars won’t even find a cure for the Zika virus. And to put things in perspective, the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the USA has a 2016 annual budget of $32 billion, which is spent on researching causes of disease, treatments for them and vaccines to prevent them.
Other organisations have been spending a lot more per annum than what Zuckerberg’s pledged to spend over a decade. The CDC’s annual budget is $7 billion which goes to helping fight disease outbreaks, funding research and action on ways to prevent everyday diseases, such as diabetes and heart diseases, as well as outbreaks of the weird kind of stuff like Ebola, avian flu and so on.
The FDA spends $4.7 billion per annum on approving new drugs, vaccines and other treatments, policing products to make sure they’re actually being used properly plus they also conduct their own research into the diagnostics, prevention, treatment and curing of diseases.
Then we’ve got Bill Gates and the foundation that he’s set up, investing over $10 billion of his own money to fight AIDS, malaria and TB amongst other things.
Private pharmaceutical companies collectively spent $58.8 billion in research and development in 2015. According to IMS Health calculations, the United States’ spending on drugs was about $374 billion in 1979.
Plus the list of other private companies, foundations and government organisations around the globe funding research, diagnostics, prevention, treatment and curing of diseases could go on and on.
So really we need not go any further than looking at the financial reasons in order to show Zuckerberg’s a complete fool and his idea of $3 billion is really in the realms of fantasy.
But let’s now take a brief look at this from a medical and scientific angle.
First of all new strains of antibiotics haven’t been found since the ’80s and the majority of the scientific community believe it’s highly unlikely that anymore will be found.
Zuckerberg talked about eradicating diseases with a sudden cure include cancer, heart disease and neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s – many of which have a lot to do with lifestyle choices. Money and research is not what’s required here. It starts with the individual choices that people make. Whether it’s lung cancer, STD’s, obesity, heart disease alcohol abuse – you name it – the cure really starts at an individual level and the choices we make. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth an ounce of cure, right?
Unless of course we somehow transition into some sort of advanced breed of superhumans resistant to superbugs, viruses, bone disease, high blood pressure, brain cell death etc., technology will only take us so far.
And there’s viruses which we will never be able to cure because by their very nature, they mutate. That’s why we see sudden outbreaks of diseases we thought we had under control, like Ebola, or the emergence of new diseases which have become transmittable from animals to humans.
The cold, hard truth of the matter is that medical research has no endpoint in sight. No single person’s money at one time is enough to solve this problem. It’s something that’s ongoing, has to be funded continuously and requires the co-operation of governments and whole societies to ever have any hope of achieving Zuckerberg’s lofty aspirations.
Zuckerberg reminds me of a kid who thinks he can fly to the moon on his paper plane. On a more serious note, this is one fine example of money being unable to solve all the problems in this world. Sometimes we just have to realize that we as humans have limitations no matter how much money we might own.