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Sci-Tech exec leaves to tackle urgent threats

Dr. Larry Brilliant is leaving the search giant's philanthropic arm for the Skoll Urgent Threats Fund to tackle nuclear proliferation, water shortages, and other issues.

Updated 5:38 p.m. PDT to clarify relationship between the Skoll Foundation and the Skoll Urgent Threats Fund. Updated at 7:40 p.m. to correct that is a philanthropic arm.

Larry Brilliant
Larry Brilliant is leaving Google for the Skoll Urgent Threats Fund. Stephen Shankland/CNET

Dr. Larry Brilliant, who in February stepped down as leader of the search giant's philanthropic arm to become its chief philanthropy officer, now is leaving Google altogether to run a $100 million project to address several major global challenges.

Brilliant now is president of a new organization called the Skoll Urgent Threats Fund founded "to address urgent threats confronting humanity and the planet," the Skoll Foundation said Tuesday. The initial funding of $100 million will be used "to combat climate change, water scarcity, pandemics, nuclear proliferation, and Middle East conflict."

That's a daunting list of challenges, but Brilliant has a daunting resume. Besides his work at, he was prominent in the effort to eradicate smallpox, worked for a decade as a professor of international health and epidemiology at the University of Michigan, founded Seva Foundation to cure blindness, co-founded the pioneering Internet community called The Well, and was chief executive of two publicly traded companies.

"Google is grateful for Larry's contributions to starting and welcomes the arrival of the Skoll Urgent Threat Fund," the company said in a statement.

eBay's first president, Jeff Skoll, began the Skoll Foundation in 1999 to advance peace and prosperity. Part of the effort is Participant Media, which among other things produced former Vice President Al Gore's movie about global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth."

Brilliant's fund is separate from the Skoll Foundation, though Skoll is chairman and the fund will make use of foundation's "programmatic expertise and operating infrastructure." Brilliant, however, is on the foundation's board and will be a senior adviser to Skoll.