Co-founder, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
Sam Molyneux, CEO at Meta
Jan 23, 2017
October 30th, 2010 marks the day that my sister Amy and I founded Meta on a mission to unlock scientific knowledge and accelerate the pace of discovery. In six years, through the hands and minds of our talented team of engineers and scientists, we figured out how to use artificial intelligence to analyze new scientific knowledge as it’s published – along with the majority of what has been written, throughout modern history. Those efforts have led us to today.
I am excited to announce that Meta will be joining the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to bring what we have built to the entire scientific community, toward their goal to cure, prevent, or manage all diseases by the end of the century.
In any area of human endeavour, the ability to understand what is happening is paramount. Rapid progress demands awareness.
In science, peer-reviewed articles are the medium for the global conversation among researchers, and they represent the foundational reference point by which we judge what is known, where science is going, and what to work on next.
But in the 21st century, the speed of science staggers under its own growth. Each day, more than 4,000 scientific papers are published in biomedicine alone. Using current tools, most will not be read by other scientists who can learn from them.
Scientists lack the means to make sense of the vast amount of research being produced around the world. To speed up progress, researchers need to be able to learn from each other's insights in real time.
Building on my background in genomics and Amy's as a technologist, through Meta, we set out to make this possible.
As a venture-backed startup, we built partnerships with dozens of publishers in a copyright aligned model, and created tools now used by researchers at over 1,200 institutes worldwide. In partnership with SRI International (the creators of Siri), we also commercialized an AI technology that can read millions of papers to uncover emerging discoveries years ahead of time. We created neural network systems that look at hundreds of signals within new papers, as they are published, to project their future impact with striking accuracy.
We worked progressively through the creation of capabilities toward a universal system for analyzing scientific knowledge. With the technologies in place, we tested each of our capabilities against important challenges faced by many parts of the ecosystem – from researchers to publishers, pharma to industrial R&D.
Together, these accomplishments form the groundwork for our next stage, and for us to realize our full potential and purpose.
As part of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, we will unite Meta's capabilities into a single, powerful tool that is available to everyone. We will provide a truly modern way for researchers to understand the state of scientific knowledge and what’s happening, right now.
The success of any ambitious project comes down to people, mission and values.
From my first conversation with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative last year, it was clear how much we shared in common: from their passion for improving human health, to their belief in the power of technology to enable progress, to their focus on helping scientists. We are inspired by their amazing team and feel privileged to join and to collaborate with the tremendous talent they are bringing together, including Brian Pinkerton, Cori Bargmann, Jim Shelton and most recently, David Plouffe.
The notion that scientific knowledge has out-scaled human efforts is well known, but while AI has solved information bottlenecks in other markets, it has yet to impact the speed of the research ecosystem.
It is for this reason that Meta’s union with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is big news for stakeholders throughout science – from publishers to funders, and from policy-makers to industrial R&D. Meta is an intelligent system that can be brought to bear on a variety of scientific knowledge challenges. Soon we will enable developers to build on it or integrate it into third party platforms and services.
Going forward, our intent is not to profit from Meta’s data and capabilities; instead we aim to ensure they get to those who need them most, across sectors and as quickly as possible, for the benefit of the world.
We will not be working to accelerate science alone, nor operating in a vacuum.
In keeping with Chan Zuckerberg Science’s model for working with the community, we can now collaborate with experts and academics in ways that were never before possible as a startup. Through open solicitations, convenings, joint projects and grants, we will embrace the ideas and efforts of researchers in the diverse fields that Meta intersects with – including machine learning, network science, ontologies, science metrics, and data visualization.
Further, to ensure that Meta now becomes finely tuned to the ecosystem's needs, we will be working with early - access user groups and development partners at each step of the way. This mentality is aligned with our roots as researchers, but married to the discipline of product development from the best tech companies in the world.
Helping scientists will produce a virtuous cycle, as they develop new tools that in turn unlock additional opportunities for faster advancement. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s recognition of this “meta” effect is why Meta can be a key piece of the puzzle to enable the future of human health that we believe to be possible within this century.
It was with this vision that we founded Meta years ago – and the realization of it, is why we join Mark and Priscilla’s team now.
Chan Zuckerberg Meta is AI in the service of the scientific ecosystem. Join us.
Our progress was only possible due to the team, our board, the support of their families and friends, our investors and the Canadian startup ecosystem.
Meta was enabled by bold early investments by the Ontario Centres of Excellence, Extreme Startups and mission-driven angel investors who understand the importance of science for human progress. Our company experienced unwavering support, financial and advisory, from Sam Ifergan, and Kuljeev Singh at iGan Partners / Rowanwood Ventures, and by Sachin Aggarwal, Mark Sakamoto and their team at Think Research, who championed us in the early days. Joe Esposito, our Board Member and industry expert recognized the potential for Meta ahead of the market, and provided critical input to the company at the highest levels. We especially thank Roger Chabra and Rho Ventures (Canada / NYC) who led our Series A, Solina Chau from Horizons Ventures (HK), as well as Everline Investments, who participated. We extend our thanks to SRI International, IARPA, and our many partners and collaborators throughout the industry, in addition to support from the Ontario and Canadian government, under SOSCIP, NSERC, MITACS, and IRAP.
In particular, I benefitted from great advisors, including Andy Yang (500px), Marcus Daniels (HighlineVC), John Ellis (NewsCorp), Dewey Murdick (US DHS), and many others. Finally, Dr. Rama Khokha and Dr. Paul Waterhouse, at OCI, for their support of me as a researcher, and their unending patience with my doctoral graduation schedule.
To Meta’s team, we are continuously and incredibly impressed by all that you do, and the sacrifices you’ve made, to make this next step a possibility. Excited to continue the journey with you.
Most of all, Amy and I thank our spouses, Zane and Erica, and our parents, who endured the genesis of Meta from a bedroom startup, through trips to Siberia, product launches, fundraising and ultimately building a world-class team across multiple cities. This marks the close to an era in our lives, and the start of the next phase of Meta's mission.
CEO & Co-Founder
Meta is a tool that helps researchers understand what is happening globally in science and shows them where science is headed. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has acquired Meta to help bring its technologies to the entire scientific community.