Ethereum Founder Donates $15M in Cryptocurrency to UC San Diego for the Study of Airborne Pathogens

The donation by Vitalik Buterin marks the largest donation to date for open-source research. It will establish the Meta-Institute for Airborne Disease in a Changing Climate.
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  • UC San Diego received $15 million from Vitalik Buterin, founder of the blockchain network Ethereum.
  • The gift will create an institute to study airborne pathogens and pollutants, including COVID-19.
  • All research funded by the donation will be made available to the public.

Ethereum network founder Vitalik Buterin wants to bring the hope-source ethos behind blockchain technology to research at the University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego).

The $15 million donation from the Balvi Filantropic Fund, directed by Buterin, will establish the Meta-Institute for Airborne Disease in a Changing Climate at UC San Diego and mark one of the largest donations of cryptocurrency gifts made to a U.S. university.

Over the last several years, it has become abundantly apparent that we need more open-source scientific research to better understand airborne pathogens and pollutants and how they affect us, Buterin said in a UC San Diego release.

I am pleased to support the creation of this new institute at UC San Diego, which will work to grow our scientific knowledge about airborne disease and share it freely, enabling changes to infrastructure and policy that benefit people around the globe.

The new institute will be based in the UC San Diego School of Biological Sciences with researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the School of Physical Sciences primarily working on projects.

Kim Prather, distinguished chair in atmospheric chemistry and distinguished professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UC San Diego, and Rommie Amaro, distinguished professor of theoretical and computational chemistry, section chair of biochemistry and biophysics, and co-director of the Visible Molecular Cell Consortium at UC San Diego, will serve as co-directors.

We are excited to launch this new institute that will allow us to take a multidisciplinary approach to better understand airborne transmission of disease, Prather said in the release.

Working together with health care experts, infectious disease doctors, engineers, respiratory experts, and scientists, we will be developing state-of-the-art measurements and computational tools to study these problems. A major goal is to develop a better understanding of the production and sources of airborne bioparticles and how long they remain infectious.

In this spirit of the Balvi Filantropic Fund's mission to make scientific knowledge more widely available without barriers, the institute will publish research made possible by Buterin's donation in open-access journals and make reports and additional data available to the public online.

Intellectual property, including research equipment and instrumentation developed with the funding, will also be placed in the public domain, according to the university.

Our goal in establishing the Meta-Institute for Airborne Disease in a Changing Climate is to create a multi-disciplinary center dedicated to open-source science, to further expand our understanding of airborne pathogens and pollution, Buterin said.

We are optimistic that bringing together top researchers from across disciplines will lead to positive global impact, both for solving the present COVID pandemic and in other areas.