CZI Announces Partnership to Advance Genomics Research at the Four Historically Black Medical Colleges
Award Represents 2nd Largest Private Donation in CDU History
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) has announced a partnership with Charles R. Drew University (CDU) and the nation’s three other Historically Black Medical Colleges (HBMCs). The partnership will further support the cutting-edge scientific research these institutions are leading to address significant gaps in genomics research, create new tools and methods to prevent and treat disease, and accelerate precision health for everyone, particularly Black people and other people of color. The Accelerate Precision Health program will award $46 million total in funding, or $11.5 million per institution over the next five years. This represents the second largest private donation in CDU’s history.
CZI’s Accelerate Precision Health program will advance genomics research by investing in genomics programs at each of the HBMCs — Charles R. Drew University College of Medicine in Los Angeles, CA; Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C.; Meharry Medical College in Nashville, TN; and Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, GA.
Through the partnership, the HBMCs will expand research opportunities for undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral students; support the creation of a new Master of Science program in Genetic Counseling; support recruitment of anchor faculty in genomics; and fund state-of-the-art tools for data handling, storage, and analysis, among other elements. The award will also fund CDU’s Biomedical Sciences Enrichment Program: Mentoring and Workforce Development.
“We are honored to partner with these four institutions that are national leaders and championing some of the most groundbreaking research in precision health,” said CZI Co-Founder & Co-CEO Priscilla Chan. “As pillars in their communities, the Historically Black Medical Colleges are also uniquely positioned to engage populations that have been systematically underrepresented in the scientific research process to ensure that the breakthroughs represent a healthier future for everyone.”
“This partnership between CDU, our fellow Historically Black Medical Colleges, and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative in many ways represents an almost perfect convergence of ambition, vision, resources, and perspective,” shared Dr. David M. Carlisle, President and CEO of CDU. “This endeavor to address humanity’s most pressing health issues through research, regardless of color, ethnicity, gender, or other factors, is nothing short of a bold and stunning step towards achieving true health equity.”
Precision health accounts for differences in people’s genes, environments, and lifestyles, and formulates treatment and prevention strategies based on their unique backgrounds and conditions. In contrast to a one-size-fits-all approach, precision health is used to more accurately predict what type of care for a particular disease will work in which populations of people and is crucial to improve health outcomes for all.
“It’s important to underscore that for Black Americans, there is a large gap between representation and need in genomics research, and the time is now to support the intersection of genomics and health differences research that will advance science. Research shows that expanding representation leads to innovative discoveries,” said CZI’s Senior Science Advisor, Hannah Valantine. “Actively engaging HBMCs and the communities they serve in genomics research is a necessary approach to harness new perspectives that will fuel creative interdisciplinary research, unleash innovations that have yet to be conceived, and accelerate precision health equity.”
The deep relationships and trust between HBMCs, Black health care providers, and Black communities position these four institutions to be natural leaders in this work. For more than a century, HBMCs have played an unmatched role in preparing Black physicians for their careers. Overwhelmingly, these institutions produce graduates who fulfill a social mission — especially in communities that are underserved — and who pursue in-demand primary care specialties, including family and internal medicine. Despite this well-documented track record, HBMCs trail their peers because of uneven infrastructure, limited research opportunities for faculty and students, and low enrollment of Black students in the field of biological and data sciences. They also tend to receive less federal research funding. The Accelerate Precision Health program will strengthen the environments needed for genomics research at HBMCs.
This grant is part of a multi-year, $500 million investment CZI announced in December 2020 to support organizations leading the way to advance racial equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts.
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative was founded in 2015 to help solve some of society’s toughest challenges—from eradicating disease and improving education, to addressing the needs of our communities. Through collaboration, providing resources and building technology, our mission is to help build a more inclusive, just, and healthy future for everyone.