Cori Bargmann, an internationally recognized neuroscientist who heads the Lulu and Anthony Wang Laboratory of Neural Circuits and Behavior at The Rockefeller University, has been named the incoming president of science at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), the philanthropy funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan. In her new role, Bargmann will oversee a multi-billion dollar effort over the coming years to develop and implement a strategy to unlock understanding of the human body down to the cellular level. She will work closely with the CZI’s science advisory board.
Bargmann’s appointment, effective October 1, was announced at an event today in San Francisco in which she and CZI’s founders were joined by leading figures in science and technology. Among these were Joseph DiRisi and Stephen Quake, leaders of Biohub, a new, independent research center that will serve as a nexus for collaborations between experts across multiple disciplines. The formation of Biohub, a partnership with Stanford University, University of California, San Francisco, and University of California, Berkeley, was also announced at the event today.
Bargmann, who is Torsten N. Wiesel Professor at Rockefeller, will oversee the development and execution of CZI’s science work. CZI is investing in science as its second major initiative, alongside work to improve education for all students. The goal is accelerating basic science research to help cure, prevent, or manage all diseases by the end of the century. CZI will support new ways of enabling scientists and engineers to work together to build new tools that will empower the whole scientific community and advance progress.
Bargmann, who joined Rockefeller in 2004, studies the relationships between genes, experience, the nervous system, and behavior. Work in her lab also explores the neural basis of social behavior, investigating the factors that cause individuals to behave differently from one another. As she takes on this important new leadership position, she will continue as a tenured professor conducting research at Rockefeller.
“Cori is a visionary scientist and a deeply thoughtful leader who is the ideal person to lead the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s science work, one of the boldest, most ambitious scientific endeavors in a generation,” says Rick Lifton, Rockefeller University’s president and an advisor to Biohub. “This presents a remarkable opportunity to impact science and medicine over the coming decades. We are exceptionally proud that Cori will be leading this effort.”
In addition to her research accomplishments, Bargmann has previously led other high-profile scientific endeavors. Most recently, in 2013, she co-chaired the committee that developed a blueprint for the BRAIN initiative of president Barack Obama and the National Institutes of Health, whose goal is to revolutionize our understanding of the human brain. At Rockefeller she has served as codirector of the Shelby White and Leon Levy Center for Mind, Brain, and Behavior and director of the Kavli Neural Systems Institute. She has also been a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator since 1995. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a winner of the 2013 Breakthrough Prize, among many other honors.
“Biomedical science is in an amazing era of discovery, and it’s the perfect time to think of ways to advance that even further,” says Bargmann. “I particularly resonate with the long timeframe, which is so unusual – what can we do that will have an impact in 20 years or 50 years? We also plan to support and enable new kinds of collaborations across institutions and disciplines to solve challenging problems. It’s hard to imagine anything better than being a Rockefeller professor, but this is an incredible opportunity to make a difference.”
In December 2015, Zuckerberg and Chan launched the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a philanthropic venture devoted to advancing human potential and promoting equality, in celebration of the birth of their daughter that month. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s science work is its second focus area. The first, dedicated to education, is led by former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education Jim Shelton.