Priscilla Chan Says the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) Is Now a 'Science-Focused Philanthropy' as Its COO Leaves CZI is one of the biggest and best-funded philanthropies in the world.
- Founded by Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, CZI has been undergoing a shift in strategy since last year.
- CZI is now focused on science, internal memos say. It was focused on education and justice reform, too.
- It's also undergoing a significant change in leadership with a new COO.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
In an email sent on Wednesday to staff of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Chan described CZI's "next phase." The organization now has a "bolder, clearer identity as a science-first philanthropy," according to a note viewed by Business Insider.
"While CZI remains committed to our work in education and our local communities, we recognize that science is where our biggest investments and bets have been and will be made moving forward," Chan wrote.
She added that CZI and its Biohub Network, which operates somewhat separately from the rest of CZI, will now be integrated. "While we're united in our goals, we operate separately for the most part," Chan wrote in Wednesday's memo. "This can slow us down."
CZI is one of the biggest and best-funded philanthropies in the world. It was founded eight years ago as a vehicle for Chan and Meta founder Zuckerberg to grant and invest some of their massive wealth.
A desire for speed and efficiency echos the restructuring that is ongoing at Meta, where Zuckerberg has conducted mass layoffs and continues to cut jobs and layers of management. Jeff MacGregor, who leads science communications at CZI, told BI: "Like any young organization, we continue to grow and evolve our operating model, and our structure has changed as a result. We're excited to build on the big bets we made in science while continuing our investments to improve opportunities in education and advance our local communities."
The admission that CZI is now favoring science initiatives and grants over education did not come as a surprise to employees. Last year, CZI conducted a layoff affecting dozens of employees working in its education segment, eliminated its policy grants portfolio for education, and moved away from an expensive educational tool it built, with Chan saying a "refreshed strategy" for education was on the way, as BI previously reported. At the time, one employee surmised that CZI's interest in education work would end within the following two years.
In internal documents and emails reported by BI last year, CZI and its leadership said some education resources would shift to developing "point solutions," or tech products that do something specific, rather than a broad platform with multiple functions. No such point solution has been released, according to a person familiar with the work.
CZI's COO, Josué Estrada, also referred to the organization as moving on to a "next phase as a science-focused philanthropy." That reference was in a separate email to staff announcing that he is leaving his role in March. Estrada joined CZI four years ago as its first COO. He was previously COO at Salesforce.
Marc Malandro is taking up an "expanded" COO role, according to the emails, moving from his current position as VP of operations for science at CZI. Putting a science leader in the number two position at CZI is another signal of the organization's new focus on science, another person familiar with the company said.
In his own note to staff, Malandro centered on CZI's "once-in-a-century opportunity to advance science in a way that can change health and medicine for years to come."
"Together, we have the pieces to make this a reality — with our people, programs, engineering capabilities, and institutes," he added. "And now, as this moment in cell science converges with advances in AI, the timing is right for us to come together."
Chan and Malandro both noted that this new phase for CZI is not entirely mapped out. Chan said, "We won't have all of the answers right away." Malandro said, "It will take time to work out all of the details of this next phase."
For the complete notes from Chan and Malandro, see below:
Email from Priscilla Chan:
Hi CZIers and Biohubbers,
Our recent efforts to clarify our priorities across CZI and the Biohub Network have led us into our next phase as an organization with a bolder, clearer identity as a science-first philanthropy. While CZI remains committed to our work in Education and our local communities, we recognize that science is where our biggest investments and bets have been and will be made moving forward. To ensure we're working efficiently and as one team in service of our science work, we are integrating our operating model across CZI and the Biohub Network.
CZI and the Biohub Network share the science mission to help scientists cure, prevent, or manage all diseases by the end of the century. To get there, we've focused our collaborative efforts on understanding the mysteries of the cell, with Al as a catalyst for this work. While we're united in our goals, we operate separately for the most part. This can slow us down. Bringing together operations between CZI and BHN will create the conditions for a cohesive CZ Science ecosystem, and will allow us to integrate the best operational practices from both organizations.
To start, Marc Malandro will step into a new and expanded Chief Operating Officer role starting March 1, reporting to me. Marc's been a member of the CZI Leadership team since 2017, serving as Vice President of Science Operations and, recently, interim head of Science Grant Programs. Marc Will lead integrated operations functions across the Biohub Network, CZI Science, and CZI Central (e.g., People, REWF, Finance, Brand & Comms, etc.) with the goal of collaborating efficiently across CZ Science while still providing support for our important work in Education and supporting our communities.
To facilitate this collaboration, we are also creating new leadership roles. First, we will hire a VP of Information, Infrastructure, and Systems, who will report to Marc and lead a team that includes both the CZI and Biohub Network Central Tech, Business Systems, and IT Operations teams. Sandy Yao will be taking on an expanded role as Chief Legal Officer for the Biohub Network. She will continue to manage Product, Privacy and IP for CZI and report to Mark Kim, who leads our legal work across CZI and BHN.
After nearly four years as CZI's first COO, Josué Estrada has decided to leave CZI. Mark and I are grateful for his contributions. We would not be able to take this next important step without Josué's leadership. Josué's direct reports will report to Marc effective March 1.
Over the next few days, meetings will be set up for teams across CZI and the San Francisco Biohub to learn more about what these changes will look like in practice. We won't have all the answers right away, but we are committed to being transparent about this process as it comes together.
I will host my first Check Up of 2024 next Thursday, January 18, at 1 pm PT. For those who've never attended a Check Up, this is a chance for us to check in as an organization to hear and learn from each other. Marc will be my guest, and the meeting will be open to everyone across CZI and Biohub Network.
Email from Marc Malandro:
Thank you very much, Priscilla,
Having been here since nearly the beginning of our work, I want first to say how excited I am for this next phase of our journey.
Our alignment in Science on the Build-Fund-Do model and the work being done across both CZI and the Biohub Network is having a clear impact on science and biomedical research. By integrating our teams even further with an operating model that combines the best of CZI and the Biohub Network, we will move even faster and more efficiently toward our shared mission. We have a once-in-a-century opportunity to advance science in a way that can change health and medicine for years to come.
Together, we have the pieces to make this a reality - with our people, programs, engineering capabilities, and institutes. And now, as this moment in cell science converges with advances in Al, the timing is right for us to come together. The goal is to have a cohesive, unified strategy for Science that is interwoven across our Build-Fund-Do pillars while continuing to support our important CZI work in Education and in supporting our communities.
As Priscilla mentioned, it will take time to work out all of the details of this next phase, and I ask for your patience and grace as things come together. I will be sure to keep you all informed on a regular basis. I will be setting up meetings via 1:1s, skip levels, and office hours to meet with colleagues at CZI, the San Francisco, Chicago, and New York Biohubs, and the Imaging Institute.
I want to thank Josué for his leadership over the past nearly four years. He laid the groundwork that is allowing us to move forward in this direction. I also want to thank Priscilla and Mark for their confidence in me and for this opportunity. Their vision and courage to take on large-scale challenges are inspiring, and I'm grateful to be entrusted with playing a role in its advancement.