May 10, 2023

Chicago wins $250 million Chan Zuckerberg biohub

Illinois chosen for cutting-edge Biohub research lab, placing the state at the center of biotechnology innovation

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) recently announced it will invest $250 million in Chicago, recognizing it as one of the nation’s premier hubs for biotech development. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, selected Chicago to house the second “biohub,” a cutting-edge research and development lab with a goal to cure, prevent or manage all diseases by the end of the century — an ambitious mission embraced by the state of Illinois.

Chan-Zuckerberg Biohub - Bioengineering - Emily Huynh

Photograph by Barbara Ries

Chicago was chosen over 58 applicants for the innovative project, beating out cities such as San Diego and New York. The Chan Zuckerberg investment underscores the advanced state of life sciences innovation in Illinois. The Chicago region ranked 6th in the nation for life sciences companies and Illinois ranked second in the nation for producing talent in Cell and Molecular Biology, Biomedical Sciences, and Immunology, according to studies by Commercial Café and Lightcast.

“For us to win this, we not only punched above our weight class but proved we are the next leading hub for biotech in the country,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker. “This is probably the biggest investment in cutting-edge research with the potential for new startups and industry in Illinois.”

Home to one of the fastest-growing life sciences talent pools in the U.S., CZ Biohub Chicago will have no shortage of scientists, engineers, and doctors to lead its research. CZI plans to staff the lab with up to 50 researchers from backgrounds in biological sciences, engineering, medicine, and physics. The team will study inflammation and work to understand its underlying role in diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.

“This institute will embark on science to embed miniaturized sensors into tissues that will allow us to understand how healthy and diseased tissues function in unprecedented detail,” Chan said in a statement about the lab.

The University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign partnered with civic leaders to make the case for Illinois and will lead the research initiatives. The three universities place Illinois among the top 10 in the nation for life sciences graduates. Moreover, 72% of biomedical and biotechnology graduates remain in Illinois, according to the 2021 ISCTC Talent Index.

CZI catalyzes an innovative research process at the intersection of biological science and technology, and its unique mission aligns with the specialties these three Tier-1 research institutions in Illinois. Northwestern University is home to the Simpson-Querrey Biomedical Research Center, the largest building dedicated to biomedical research at an American medical school. The University of Chicago features the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, while the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is home to the Roy J. Carver Biotechnology Center for molecular biology research.

The collaboration between the three universities combines their strengths to advance the biohub’s mission. CZ Biohub Chicago will be centrally located in Chicago’s Fulton Labs, providing unmatched access to the country and world. It joins a thriving ecosystem of life sciences companies across the state, from startups to Fortune 500s. With Illinois’ unrivaled talent, connectivity, affordability and infrastructure, the new biohub is in the optimal location for success.

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