Biomedical science is a powerful tool to catalyze discoveries and innovations that extend lives. Yet globally, science is also rife with systemic disparities, inequities and injustices. Scientific training and funding opportunities are unevenly distributed, resulting in a scientific workforce that does not represent all communities. There is a systemic lack of research investment in the health and diseases of underserved populations in the United States and across the world. These same communities bear a disproportionate burden of many diseases, yet have limited access to the benefits of biomedical research.

CZI co-founder and co-CEO Dr Priscilla Chan with students from University of California, San Diego, who are part of a program for helping to inspire, recruit and retain underrepresented students pursuing degrees in science, technology, mathematics and engineering fields. Credit: CZI

Social and economic factors and systemic racism are major contributors to health care disparities, but biomedical science shares responsibility. Scientific leaders—and funders—must ask difficult questions of ourselves and assess the evidence. In what ways are scientific institutions making science less diverse, less equitable and less inclusive than it should be? How do we hold ourselves accountable?

We write from the perspective of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), a five-year-old philanthropy founded by Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan with a sweeping scientific mission statement: to help support science and technology that will make it possible to cure, prevent or manage all diseases for all people by the end of the twenty-first century. Bringing new funding and people into the scientific enterprise allows CZI and other philanthropies to try new approaches, different from those of government funders, and evaluate the impact and potential of those approaches.