Zuckerberg couple awards $68 mln to fund human cell-mapping project


Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan. (File photo: Agencies)

A company created by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan on Friday announced the awarding of $68 million to fund a global project to map all cells in the human body.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), a limited liability firm based in the Redwood City, California, said the fund will support the ongoing global project the Human Cell Atlas (HCA) and its selection of 38 collaborative science teams to map the human body cell by cell.

The HCA project is launched for a goal of creating comprehensive reference maps of all human cells—the fundamental units of life—as a basis for both understanding human health and diagnosing, monitoring, and treating disease.

The three-year grant will be shared by the 38 teams from 20 countries and multiple disciplines that cover medicine, software engineering and computational biology.

The participants will focus on mapping specific tissues, such as the heart, eye, or liver, in the healthy human body, said the CZI.

"The global Human Cell Atlas effort is a beacon for what can be accomplished when experts across scientific fields and time zones work together towards a common goal," said CZI Head of Science Cori Bargmann.

The result of the research and tools created from it will be shared freely among other researchers and research institutes, said the CZI, which is also working with the European Bioinformatics Institute, the Broad Institute, as well as the University of California, Santa Cruz.

The CZI has previously funded 85 projects to create collaborative computational tools in support of building the HCA, as well as 38 pilot projects to help establish best practices and data analysis technologies for constructing the atlas.

The interdisciplinary collaborations will accelerate progress toward a first draft of the Human Cell Atlas, Bargmann said.