Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan have promised to give away all of their wealth, and they chose a lofty goal for one of their first philanthropic ventures: Cure all disease. The couple believes this will be a technological challenge in addition to a medical one.
So Zuckerberg and Chan have hired a technical lead for their new corporation: Amazon search executive Brian Pinkerton is joining the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative as its new CTO.
That means Pinkerton will lead CZI’s tech team, which he says could grow to a “couple hundred people” over the next few years. It’s not entirely clear what his team will work on right away. “The jury is a little bit out on this; it’s brand new,” Pinkerton told, but added that it’ll likely be a mix of building tech in-house for the corporation while also dispatching technical support to CZI’s partners.
That includes tech support for the corporation’s first major science initiative: A new medical research facility coming to San Francisco. The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, as it will be called, was announced last month along with a promise to invest $3 billion over the next decade to fund research to fight and cure diseases.
Pinkerton says he’ll recruit everything from mobile app developers to machine learning scientists to help build algorithms and models to help advance scientific research.
“Probably the first couple of efforts [will be] very lab-specific,” Pinkerton said of his future tech team. “Like, ‘What do you need? Let’s build it and see what we learn.’”
Pinkerton spent the past four years running A9, Amazon’s unit responsible for the company’s text and visual search features. Part of what drew him to CZI was that he’ll be working on projects and problems that most tech companies aren’t even thinking about.
“The time horizon here is unlike the typical time horizon,” Pinkerton said. “Mark and Priscilla are looking out 50 and 100 years. If you look out that far, you can imagine stuff you’ll want to build on your own that you’ll need in 10 years or 20 years. ... It’s super exciting.”