Facebook billionaire Sean Parker wants to eliminate diabetes

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Social Media Feeds Our Narcissism Says Napster Founder
Napster cofounder and early Facebook investor has dealt with a deathly allergy to nuts, including a few close calls.

But having already donated money to study allergies, Parker is turning his attention to an autoimmune disorder that's both more visible and more severe: Type 1 diabetes.

Diabetes is a condition where there's too much glucose in the blood. Typically, the pancreas produces insulin, a hormone, to balance the glucose and help it get from the food you eat into your cells. If the pancreas doesn't create enough insulin or it doesn't work, blood sugar levels become too high or too low — a dangerous fluctuation that can lead to death.​

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A leading immunologist at UCSF, Dr. Jeff Bluestone, has been working on a way to eliminate the autoimmune disorder by genetically modifying cells, like in the way cell therapy is changing the way people treat cancer. To fund Bluestone's work, Parker is announcing today a $10 million gift to create a diabetes research lab in his name at UC San Francisco.

"Just 10 years ago this all seemed maybe theoretically possible, but it seemed like science fiction. But now it's happening in the clinic regularly," Parker said. "We're at the cusp of a revolution in many different fields largely due to this combination of genetics and the understanding of the immune system and widespread use of cell therapy."

Parker has been studying autoimmune disorders because of his own conditions, he said Monday on a conference call with reporters.

The tech mogul who made billions off Facebook is deathly allergic to nuts and donated $24 million to Stanford last winter to fund the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research.

"I had this kind of fascination and personal interest of the underlying mechanisms of autoimmunity and spent the better part of the decade of reading everything I could get my hands on, which includes research," Parker said, going on to cite the work of Bluestone.

The $10 million gift is aimed at helping Bluestone work on genetically modifying cells to eliminate Type 1 diabetes.

See photos of Parker through the years:

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Facebook billionaire Sean Parker wants to eliminate diabetes
CNBC EVENTS -- Pictured: Sean Parker (R) and J. Craig Venter , Co-Founder, CEO, and Chairman, Human Logevity, Inc., during a panel discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, in New York City on September 29, 2015; The panel also included Edward Norton, actor, activist and Co-Founder CrowdRise -- (Photo by: Adam Jeffery/CNBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 10: Sean Parker (L) and Janet Pierson, producer SXSW Film Festival, attend the World Premiere of 'Downloaded' during the 2013 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Paramount Theatre on March 10, 2013 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for SXSW)
FILE PHOTO: 'BEST PHOTOS OF 2012' (***BESTOF2012***): Sean Parker, co-founder of Napster Inc. and managing partner of the Founders Fund, stands for a photograph following a television interview on day three of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Friday, Jan. 27, 2012. The 42nd annual meeting of the World Economic Forum will be attended by about 2,600 political, business and financial leaders at the five-day conference. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 06: Sean Parker (L) and Lars Ulrich attend the 2012 Spotify press event on December 6, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 07: Sean Parker arrives at Stand Up To Cancer at The Shrine Auditorium on September 7, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 05: Airtime Co-founder and Executive Chairman Sean Parker at the Airtime Launch Press Conference at Milk Studios on June 5, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/WireImage for Airtime)
ROCK CENTER WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS -- Pictured: Shawn Fanning, Sean Parker -- (Photo by: Heidi Gutman/NBC)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 22: (L-R) Goldie Hawn and Sean Parker attend the 3rd Annual TechFellow Awards at SF MOMA on February 22, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images For Techfellows)
Napster co-founder, Sean Parker, General Partner of Founders Fund, talks at LeWeb 11 event in Saint-Denis, suburbs of Paris, on December 9, 2011. Top industry entrepreneurs, executives, investors, senior press and bloggers gathered during three days to explore the key issues and opportunities in the web marketplace. AFP PHOTO ERIC PIERMONT (Photo credit should read ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 17: Supyo co-founder Sean Parker speaks during the 2011 Web 2.0 Summit on October 17, 2011 in San Francisco, California. The 2011 Web 2.0 Summit features keynote addresses by Internet and technology leaders and runs through Wednesday. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
(EXCLUSIVE, Premium Rates Apply) (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Entrepreneur Sean Parker (L) and singer Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction pose at Sean Parker's Celebration of Music on September 22, 2011 in San Francisco, California.
Sean Parker, managing partner of Founders Fund, speaks during The Daily Beast's Inaugural Innovators Summit in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S., on Friday, Oct. 22, 2010. The Daily Beast website, which is co-owned by Tina Brown and Barry Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp, ended merger talks with Sidney Harman's Newsweek magazine earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported. Photographer: Derick E. Hingle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

"The focus of this gift is autoimmunity, but very specifically a strategic targeted plan for eliminating — you're hesitant to use the cure word — but hoping to ultimately cure Type 1 diabetes," Parker said.

It isn't a "typical philanthropic gift" Parker said because of both its size and scale. Rather than throwing money at a large foundation, Parker focused on empowering the work of Bluestone and his lab. It's all still an experiment, but Parker said he could continue funding the project if it sees success in its efficacy tests.

In June, Parker gave $600 million to establish the Parker Foundation, which is where this pledge come from. Parker had previously donated $4.5 million to UCSF for malaria research. His foundation doesn't only focus on medicine, either. He's used his foundation to invest in Code for America while Parker himself leads political groups like Fwd.US and Causes. Forbes values Parker's net worth at $2.5 billion.

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