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To cure all disease before 2100, start now, says Priscilla Chan

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative isn't procrastinating on its massive goal, even with a deadline almost a century from now.

Priscilla Chan: Now's the time.
Screenshot via Alfred Ng/CNET

We can't dawdle in the drive to eradicate disease, according to Priscilla Chan.

In September, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative announced it is investing more than $3 billion over the next decade to help cure all diseases by the next century. It's a sweeping initiative that might ultimately take more than 100 years, but the timing couldn't be better, Chan said during the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit on Thursday.

"Those are huge goals, and we need to make bets that will take 25, 50, 100 years to pan out," she said during the "Next Wave of Philanthropy" panel in San Francisco. "If we start the clock now, we can actually make real progress."

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, first announced by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, will be funded by 99 percent of his Facebook shares, worth about $45 billion. The effort by Chan and her husband aims to bring together scientists and engineers and to create new tools and technology to help find a cure by everything before 2100.

Chan, a pediatrician, acknowledged that meeting the end-of-the-century deadline would be a near-impossible feat. Still, she said, the sooner researchers and scientists can get started, the sooner they'll be able to build off their findings, creating a snowball effect.

"It's hard when you set these big goals. You can't work for 100 years, and in 100 years from now and say, 'well, how'd we do?'" Chan said, pointing out the need for constant feedback and growth. "Nobody plays a basketball game with the scoreboard covered."

The initiative kicked off its efforts with a $600 million fund to start the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, a research center at the Mission Bay campus of the University of California, San Francisco, where engineers and scientists can collaborate on projects.